Pleasanton City Council members are set to discuss advancing new regulations to ban the sales of flavored tobacco and vaping products, with city staff bringing forward the revised draft ordinance on Tuesday, nearly three months after the council's initial debate on the issue.
The proposed ordinance would finalize the swift restrictions endorsed in concept by the council majority after their 3-1/2-hour public hearing on Feb. 18 that centered on finding regulatory solutions to help curb youth vaping in Pleasanton.
City staff needed time after that meeting to rewrite the original ordinance they had drafted, in light of the new direction by the council, but that process was delayed amid the city's response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The proposed ordinance is now ready to go forward, incorporating the five-fold regulation strategy initially approved by the council majority, as well as recommendations from city staff to delay enforcement of the sales ban for one year to give businesses time to adjust and to hold off on potential requirements for minimum package sizes and pricing for other tobacco products.
This debate will look a lot different than the council's previous public hearing on vaping -- which saw a packed council chamber and 50-plus residents, young and old, speak at the lectern.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, Tuesday's regular council meeting will be held remotely and viewable live only online or via local access television.
Driven by city leaders' desire to address the trend of teen vaping head-on and largely aligning with the strict recommendations made by the city's Youth Commission, the proposed regulations aim to reduce exposure to vape and flavored tobacco products by underage people in Pleasanton.
"Persons age 21 and older can obtain flavored tobacco and electronic smoking devices in other jurisdictions and online, and other tobacco sales can continue at existing tobacco retailers and tobacco stores," Heidi Murphy, director of library and recreation, and Ellen Clark, director of community development, wrote in a joint staff report to the council.
Leading the ordinance would be prohibiting all sales of flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, as well as banning all sales of electronic smoking devices and related vaping paraphernalia within the city of Pleasanton.
The proposal would also prohibit new tobacco retailers and new tobacco stores within 1,000 feet of public schools, public parks and recreation facilities while existing retailers and stores within that distance could continue operating as grandfathered in. In light of the two other bans, those businesses could only sell non-flavored tobacco.
Additionally, city staff would be required to develop and implement a new, strict tobacco retailer licensing program that would require all tobacco retailers and tobacco stores to obtain an annual permit from the city. They would then be subject to fines and permit revocation for sales violations.
And finally, the ordinance would formally prohibit anyone under 21 years old from possessing any tobacco product, subject to confiscation and diversion -- but no criminal penalties or fines.
City staff have initially recommended starting enforcement of the sales bans on June 21, 2021, one year after the ordinance is scheduled to take effect, "to give businesses the
opportunity to sell existing inventory, change business models and adjust store displays," Murphy and Clark said.
The provisions for the 1,000-foot buffer, tobacco retailer licence program and possession by underage people are recommended to go into effect immediately.
The sales bans in the new ordinance are estimated to reduce the city's sales tax revenue by $25,000 to $40,000 annually, based on 2019 data, according to city staff.
The City Council also contemplated looking at the possibility of adding regulations for minimum package sizes and prices for tobacco products as part of limiting youth access, especially for little cigars and cigarillos, but city staff recommend holding off at this time.
"1. It is expected that underage Pleasanton students are similarly using higher-cost products; 2. No other Tri-Valley city has adopted minimum package sizes or prices; 3. And that the ban on flavored tobacco and electronic smoking devices removes the most popular youth tobacco products," Clark and Murphy said.
They did provide the council with possible perimeters to consider in case the elected officials did want to move forward with minimum sizes and prices.
They also asked for clarification on whether the council would want to consider exemptions to allow the sales of flavored pipe tobacco and flavored expensive cigars, like Livermore allows.
The proposed ordinance is set for introduction and first reading on Tuesday. If approved, it would advance to a second reading and final adoption two weeks later -- as part of a required two-meeting process. The legal effective date would be 30 days afterward, June 20.
The vaping discussion is the lead item for Tuesday's regular meeting, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and be held entirely online with council members participating via teleconference.
To watch the meeting live, go to Tri-Valley Community Television's Channel 29 or visit the city website. Residents who want to speak should complete a speaker card -- available on the city website -- by 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 5).
In other business
The only other business on the council's meeting agenda is a five-item consent calendar, a collection of items deemed routine and voted upon all at once unless pulled for separate individual consideration by request of a council member, city staff or the public.
The list of consent approvals includes the April 23 council meeting minutes, actions of the city's zoning administrator, public improvements for Tract 7968 at 4171 and 4189 Old Stanley Blvd., public improvements by Hendrick Automotive Group at 4345 Rosewood Drive, and the city's monthly disbursements and investments report for March.