Wrapped up in a package of legislation aimed at making cigarettes harder for those under 18-years-old to get is a new licensing requirement that will affect all tobacco retailers in unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif. by the middle of the summer.
While the price has not yet been established, it is expected to be an annual fee of $350 per store for the first two years, as that is the amount being recommended by county officials, according to a report in the Press Democrat. After those first two years, the fee could be subject to an increase. The change affects an estimated 140 retailers, who will have to purchase the new license by July 1. Those licenses will only be transferrable to immediate family members in the event the store is sold.
Fees generated from the new licensing requirement will be used to pay for undercover stings of tobacco shops who sell to minors. Any retailer who does sell to a minor will face a penalty of a 30-day suspension of their license, which could be reduced to five days if they plead guilty, as well as a $1,500 fine. A second violation would come with a $5,500 fine and a 60-day license suspension, which could be knocked down to 15 days. Should a retailer accumulate four violations in five years, their license will be revoked.
Additionally, new tobacco retailers in the county will have to be located at least 1,000 feet of schools.
Also passed was a price floor of $7 per pack for cigarettes sold in the county that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 after being gradually phased in, and a reclassification of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. One provision that did not get passed was a ban on the sale of individual cigars and cigarillos, the report noted.
Sonoma County is located in northern California and has an estimated population of 495,000 people.