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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

City Council Unanimously Adopts Ordinance Approving Tobacco Sales “Stings”

• Members Want Curbs on Selling Products to Minors to Bring Current Practices to a Halt

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council received shocking news this week when it learned that a survey found that 37.5 percent of the tobacco retail stores in Malibu have illegally sold tobacco products to minors. That is nearly five times the statewide rate of 7.7 percent.
The use purchase study was conducted by the Alliance to Keep Kids Tobacco Free and was cited by Malibu residents Walter Zelman, chair of the Department of Public Health at California State University and pediatric pulmonologist Georgia Goldfarb.
“So while it is illegal to sell to minors, clearly many stores in Malibu are doing just that,” wrote the pair in a letter to the city.
Parents, students and experts paraded before the city council to reveal the easy access of tobacco to minors in retail outlets in the coastal city and the health consequences.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who has sheparded the effort through City Hall, said as a “youth smoker” she wanted to tackle the issue and was disturbed by how easily tobacco is being sold to Malibu youngsters.
Of the dozen speakers, who testified before the city council, the consistent theme or message of both adults and youth was urging the council to “put up roadblocks” to stop sales to minors.
Rosenthal said there are 16 outlets, mostly gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores, which sell tobacco products. Of those 16, there were six that sold to underage youth.
Rosenthal said she wants to model an ordinance like the one currently in place in Calabasas.
In 2009, Calabasas adopted a tobacco retailer licensing ordinance that has been described as an effective way to enforce state laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors.
The law requires all retailers to register with the city if they intend to sell tobacco products. The city conducts compliance checks and if a retailer is found to be out of compliance, the registration could be revoked and the retailer would be required to wait a minimum of three months before filing a new registration application. Multiple violations result in longer waiting periods.
“We have somebody up here that was the Marlboro man,” said Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich referring to Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
As if coming to his defense, Mayor John Sibert said, “[Wagner] never smoked. The smoke was added [as an effect].”
Wagner said the amount of cigarette butts he picks up daily in front of his store is a “reminder of my past.”
Back on topic, City Manager Jim Thorsen said the compliance checks or “stings” could be handled by the sheriff’s department.
There was a brief discussion about using code enforcement from the planning department or whether to charge fines. Both were nixed.
Rosenthal offered a motion that would result in an ordinance requiring two or three compliance checks per year with the resulting consequences patterned after the Calabasas law.
The staff had indicated due to the limited number of retail outlets in Malibu and the potential difficulty in obtaining registration, that they not impose a registration fee.
State law, according to city officials, requires any person selling tobacco products be over 18 years old.
With the city adopting a tobacco ordinance, Rosenthal also wanted the law to include a stipulation that would have both the business owner and the employee, who sells to a minor, be cited if that employee is underage.

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