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San Marcos to consider tobacco ordinance

SAN MARCOS — San Marcos officials are considering creating a new license for tobacco retailers that would require them to have annual compliance checks with the Sheriff’s Department and ban them from selling drug paraphernalia.

The San Marcos City Council will discuss the ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.

If adopted, the city would follow in the footsteps of Vista, El Cajon and other cities statewide that have adopted such license requirements, which provide incentives for business that follow the rules and harsh penalties for scofflaw businesses.

Tobacco businesses already have to get a license from the state to operate, but the $100 fee doesn’t cover the cost of the compliance check, which has prompted cities to adopt supplemental licenses such as the one San Marcos is considering.

According to the staff report, San Marcos’ proposed program mirrors Vista’s, which has been successful in increasing compliance among that city’s tobacco-selling establishments.

San Marcos has 60 businesses that sell tobacco and e-Cigarette products. The proposed ordinance would require them to obtain a permit that costs $189.52, which city officials said would cover the costs to administer and perform compliance checks.

In the second year of the program, establishments can get reductions based on a clean compliance check and other anti-tobacco measures, such as a magnetic stripe reader to verify the age of buyers, regular staff training and no tobacco advertising.

All told, stores can cut the cost of the license by $60.

Conversely, violations found in the annual compliance review can result in punishments ranging from warnings to suspension and ultimately revocation of the license.

The first violation with a three-year period results in a warning and a requirement to train employees within 60 days. The second violation results in an up-to 30-day suspension; a third violation would result in a 90-day suspension; a fourth violation would result in a yearlong suspension, and a fifth suspension could result in revocation.