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San Mateo County Supervisors vote to strengthen regulations on tobacco

A tobacco shop with a bright sign, at night.
Radek Skrzypczak
A tobacco shop with a bright sign, at night.

This move enforces new rules on businesses to prevent children and young adults from buying tobacco. Supervisor David Canepa tweeted in support of the ordinance on Tuesday night, writing “We cannot allow Big Tobacco to continue targeting our youth with their harmful products. ”

The ordinance increases annual permit fees from $174 to $672, and it would suspend permits for businesses who sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21. The ordinance also increases fines — making businesses pay up to $500 for a first violation and up to $1000 for any violations following, within a 60-month period.

This vote also prevents new tobacco sale permits for locations within a 1000 feet of a “youth populated area” or 500 feet of an existing tobacco retailer. It would also increase on-site inspections of shops selling tobacco to two a year.

These new rules were proposed by the San Mateo County Health Department. They found that 11 of 74 tobacco retailers, or about 15% of shops, in unincorporated San Mateo County sold tobacco to underage youth decoys from April 2021 to June 2022.

The new ordinance only applies to unincorporated areas of the county, but officials said in a news release Tuesday that they will encourage cities within the county to follow suit as well.

Hanisha Harjani is in the KALW Summer Training Program and produces news stories for Crosscurrents