After a public hearing that saw more than 50 speakers passionately weigh in, the Pleasanton City Council voted to ban all flavored tobacco and electronic cigarettes within the city.

While the ban on these products with no exemptions passed unanimously during the May 5 meeting, the council considered additional recommendations outlined in a staff report presented by Larissa Seto, assistant city attorney. Seto introduced an ordinance that calls for the bans of flavored tobacco, e-cigarettes and related paraphernalia; prohibits the sale of tobacco within 1,000 feet of public schools, parks and recreation centers (except for grandfathered businesses); implements tobacco retailer licensing (TRL); and addresses consequences for underage (21) tobacco possession, making the tobacco subject to confiscation and the youth subject to a referral to counseling.

The vote to ban the aforementioned tobacco products comes on the heels of a Feb. 18 meeting, during which time the Pleasanton Youth Commission urged the city to take action on the problem with tobacco addiction among teens.

“We heard about 50 of our youth speak in February very articulately about this,” Vice Mayor Kathy Narum said. “I think they were really asking for our help to prohibit these things to protect our youth.”

The public came out in force once again for the May 5 meeting, with the majority of voices — ranging from teens, parents and community members — largely in favor of banning the products deemed marketed toward children. However, some expressed the problems with banning otherwise legal products in that it could create a type of black market, thus placing a strain on law enforcement. The owner of Smoker’s Gift Shop used his three minutes to express disapproval of such regulations, stating the only one impacted will be the few businesses in the city that sell tobacco, further noting business owners are not selling to minors — it’s other adults who are buying for them. He urged the council not to punish business owners for this offense.

The council decided on the five parts of the ordinance in separate motions, first banning the products and then considering the issue of retailers in the city. Councilmember Karla Brown motioned to allow grandfathering of existing businesses within the 1,000 feet of schools, parks and recreation centers, but added the amendment that new owners cannot purchase the business and find the same benefit. Councilmember Julie Testa agreed with Brown’s motion, further stating she believed grandfathering was already a generous offer for retailers selling tobacco. However, Narum and Councilmember Jerry Pentin disagreed, noting the land-use runs with the land and is not based on sales. Mayor Jerry Thorne’s vote to support Brown’s motion of not allowing new owners to receive the same grandfathered benefits allowed the motion to pass 3 to 2.

“I started smoking very young, and I’m paying the price right now,” Thorne said. “So I’m going to support the most strict regulation we can possibly come up with.”

The council voted to decide on the TRL and consequences for underage possession at a later date in order to give leadership ample time to review the ordinance before it’s enacted within the city.

Narum then made the motion to ask the city manager to come back with a code amendment to adopt the minimum pricing and pack size as outlined in the staff report, including no redemption of coupons, no discounts or free items. The minimum pricing and pack sizes were measures recommended to reduce youth purchasing, as many in the younger crowd are impacted by cost and not as likely to purchase larger quantities. The motion passed unanimously.

Jan. 21, 2021, will mark the implementation date of the ordinance and enforcement prohibiting flavored tobacco sales and electronic cigarettes.

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