Following outcry from retailers Antioch Council agrees to suspend certain tobacco sales ban until December 1

Examples of flavored tobacco. Source: YTAPP presentation

Will wait for November vote on referendum of statewide ban; approves six-year contract extension for city attorney on 5-0 vote

By Allen D. Payton

After much outcry from tobacco retailers in Antioch, the city council on Tuesday night April 26, 2022, agreed to suspend their previously approved ban on the sale of some tobacco and vaping products through December 1. No vote was taken, so the ban remains in place, but city staff was directed to suspend enforcement.

In addition, the council voted unanimously to approve an unusual six-year extension to the contract with Smith. Normal contracts with city attorneys and managers are three-to-five years in length. City Attorney contract extension ACC042622

Tobacco Retail Ban Grace Period

The ban was approved on a 3-2 vote on Feb. 22, with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker opposing. Tobacco Retail Sales Ban ACC022222

It was in response to an effort by Antioch youth seeking to keep flavored tobacco products from being sold to and used by young people. The Council previously considered this topic at its May 25, 2021, meeting during a detailed presentation of a survey by the Youth Tobacco Advocacy Policy Project (YTAPP). The ban went into effect on April 7, this year. YTAPP Presentation ACC052521

According to the city staff report for the April 26 council meeting agenda item, “Since passing the ordinance, the City Council has heard public comment from tobacco retailers and businesses selling tobacco products expressing the desire for a grace period temporarily suspending the implementation of new restrictions on sales of tobacco or tobacco products with characterizing flavor, electronic cigarettes, cigars, and little cigars to enable businesses to sell their existing inventory and transition into compliance with the new ordinance.”

One of the complaints from the retailers was that the city ordinance didn’t create a level playing field with those in neighboring cities. The council was asked to wait until after a November vote on a referendum on the state law passed in 2020 banning flavored tobacco products. According to the L.A. Times the statewide ban was suspended in January 2021 after the referendum by the tobacco industry qualified for the ballot.

Another complaint was that the ordinance didn’t give the retailers time to sell the products they already had in stock. A third complaint was that the retailers weren’t notified by the City of the impending ban or suspension of enforcement prior to either council meeting.

According to a report by the FDA, “Flavors are added to tobacco products to improve flavor and taste by reducing the harshness, bitterness, and astringency. However, the use of flavors in tobacco products raises important public health questions. For example, FDA is aware of early reports that some flavors could help adult cigarette smokers switch to potentially less harmful tobacco products. On the flip side, research has shown that sweet-tasting flavors are particularly appealing to youth and young adults.

In 2020, non-Hispanic Black high school students reported past 30-day cigar smoking at levels twice as high as their White counterparts. Nearly 74% of youth aged 12-17 who use cigars say they smoke cigars because they come in flavors they enjoy. Among youth who have ever tried a cigar, 68% of cigarillo users and 56% of filtered cigar users report that their first cigar was a flavored product. Moreover, in 2020, more young people tried a cigar every day than tried a cigarette.”

During the April 26 meeting the council gave direction to City Attorney Thomas L. Smith to prepare an amendment to the tobacco ordinance implementing a grace period until December 1, to focus on community education and suspend enforcement until the passage of the amendment to the ordinance.

Council Comments

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock spoke in favor of the grace period to applause from the audience saying, “I’m looking for the businesses to make a real, concerted effort to make sure none of these flavored, menthol cigarettes get into the hands of kids. I hope there’s something you can do education-wise.”

“I was not in for this from the start,” Barbanica stated. “I didn’t support it. I think it harms our local businesses. Please continue to police yourself. But I’m in support of staying this until at least Dec. 1st until we see what the state does. I think this was an overreach on our part and we need to be consistent with state law and not harm our local businesses.”

While Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he could support the grace period he also stated, “But I will not be changing my mind irrespective of what the voters of California do. I’m sticking to what I originally did.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson said she could also support the grace period but wanted to focus on a community education component. “Not sure about Dec. 1, but I can support the grace period.”

“I heard people say, ‘Big Tobacco, Big Tobacco’,” Torres-Walker said, speaking in support of the grace period. “This is not Big Tobacco sitting out here. They’re family-owned businesses.”

Advisory Notice Sent April 25

The following notice was sent by the City to businesses via email on Monday, April 25 providing details on the ban:

“ADVISORY NOTICE:

FOR BUSINESSES ENGAGED IN RETAIL SALES OF TOBACCO AND
VAPING PRODUCTS FOR USE WITH TOBACCO

This notice is to inform local businesses of recent changes to City ordinances impacting retail sales within the City of Antioch. The intent of the referenced policies is to provide a healthy, safe environment for all City residents by reducing the adverse effects of cigarettes and related tobacco products, especially as it relates to youth.

As of April 7, 2022, the following changes to the City of Antioch Municipal Code will become effective:
1. The number of new tobacco retailers shall be restricted.

  1. Tobacco retailers are prohibited from selling or possessing tobacco products with the characteristic of being “flavored”, including but not limited to mint, menthol or chocolate.
  2. New businesses with tobacco sales and vaping products for use with tobacco shall maintain a minimum distance of at least 1,000 feet from schools and similar uses.
  3. Electronic smoking devices and e-cigarettes for sale for use with tobacco or tobacco sales are banned in all retail establishments.
  4. A minimum package size for little cigars (cigarillos) is restricted to twenty and cigars is restricted to six.
  5. A minimum price of $10 per package, including applicable fees and taxes, is set for tobacco products, including cigarettes, little cigars (cigarillos) or cigars.

The City respectfully requests your cooperation. On a going forward basis, City of Antioch’s Code Enforcement Division will address compliance matters.

For additional background information, see items F and G at https://www.antiochca.gov/fc/government/agendas/CityCouncil/2022/agendas/030822/030822.pdf
Should you have questions regarding retail sales of tobacco and vaping products for use with tobacco, please contact the City of Antioch Community Development Department, Code Enforcement Division at 925.779.7042.”

Retailers who sell the products complained about the impact on their businesses and asked the council to wait until the vote on a November ballot measure was decided, that would create a statewide ban. The retailers wanted a level playing field. The council members agreed.”

The enforcement of the ordinance is currently suspended. The council is expected to vote on the grace period during their next meeting on Tuesday, May 10.

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the attachments to this post:


Flavored tobacco from YTAPP presentation


City Attorney contract extension ACC042622


Tobacco Retail Sales Ban ACC022222


YTAPP Presentation ACC052521


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