Hesperia Intensifying Tobacco Sale Licensing & Regulations

The Hesperia City Council on October 19 gave initial approval to an ordinance that imposes several hundred dollar licensing fees on businesses selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States,” the staff report on the ordinance, written by Assistant City Manager Rachel Molina and Management Analyst Jamie Carone and provided to the city council by City Manager Nils Bentsen, stated. “Tobacco use is responsible for the premature death of more than 480,000 people each year and typically begins during adolescence. Youth often fall victim to deceptive and clever advertising created by tobacco companies.”
The council heard from people who said that smoking and tobacco use in general is unhealthful and that smoke shops have been and are continuing to sell their products to minors.
That was affirmed by Councilman Larry Bird, who is the principal at Sultana High School. He said vaping by students was widespread on campus.
The ordinance bans the advertising of candy flavored tobacco products or ones packaged to appeal to children, and prohibits the sale of single cigarettes and cigars or sales via coupon discounts intended to lure in children.
In addition to the tobacco sales licenses, such purveyors are also required to secure normal business licenses.
The pricing schedule on the licenses was somewhat confusing, with different types or levels of permits specified in the report, the distinctions between which are unclear.
“The cost for a tobacco retail license will be $210.00,” the staff report states. “A combination license fee will be available for retailers who fall under the city’s deemed approved program. The cost of this license will be $485. This fee is comprised of the deemed approved fee of $325 plus an additional $160 to cover the costs of the additional code enforcement inspections upon license application and throughout the year. If necessary, a reinspection fee may be charged for an additional $60 for each inspection.”
The report did not explain the difference between a retail license and a combination license, nor elaborate on what the deemed approved program is or the benefits or advantages it offers retailers.
The report, however, did spell out the consequences of not securing a license or of being caught selling tobacco or tobacco products to minors.
A violation of any existing state or federal law will constitute a violation of the tobacco retail license. Violations will trigger a suspension of the city license. Without a city license, retailers cannot sell tobacco or tobacco products in Hesperia at all.
City attorney Eric Dunn indicated that the possession of a tobacco sales license would not serve as a loophole to allow for the sale of marijuana or cannabis products.

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