OCEANSIDE — Businesses that sell tobacco products in Oceanside will now have to obtain a specific license to continue doing so.
On Aug. 19, City Council approved an amendment to City Code requiring businesses that sell tobacco products to obtain a Tobacco Retailer License (TRL).
State law provides penalties for underage tobacco sales but does not provide a process to prevent future underage sales nor funding for enforcement. Some municipalities around the state, including Vista and El Cajon, have implemented TRLs that require background checks of applicants and provide a way to suspend or revoke the license if violations reoccur.
In 2016, the state raised the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Still, underage persons were still able to buy tobacco 19% of the time statewide. These sales happened at tobacco and vape shops, convenience stores, liquor stores and supermarkets.
Tobacco products include vaping devices, vaping liquids and single-use electronic cigarettes in addition to traditional dry tobacco products like cigarettes.
Approximately one out of eight California high school students currently use a tobacco product, and 84.3% of California high school students who use tobacco products use an electronic smoking device.
According to data provided by the Vista Community Clinic, the city of Vista was able to drop its underage purchases of tobacco products from 39% to 1% after implementing a TLR.
In Oceanside, underage purchases occur 24% of the time.
There are approximately 100 businesses in Oceanside that sell tobacco products.
According to Code Enforcement Division Manager Kirk Mundt, a TRL could be denied based on the criminal background of the applicant and could also be suspended or revoked for underage sale violations. The license allows the suspension of the TRL without the revocation of a regular business license.
“We don’t want to close down the whole grocery store if they sell tobacco to a minor, but this tobacco license could be suspended or revoked for those violations,” Mundt told City Council.
Mundt said the fee for the license will be around $300, which would provide funds for license administration, enhanced enforcement, including undercover buy operations, and regular inspections.
Deputy Mayor Jack Feller asked if the TRL would have any relation to cannabis vaping products. City Attorney John Mullen clarified that a business with a TRL could not sell cannabis products, and noted that there aren’t currently any storefront cannabis businesses within the city, therefore the TRL would not apply to cannabis vaping products.