Santa Clarita considers temporary ban on new sales of flavored tobacco

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File photo

Santa Clarita could temporarily ban the establishment of new tobacco retailers that sell flavored tobacco products, a proposed move following Tuesday’s decision by Los Angeles County to prohibit the sale of the same merchandise.  

The city currently allows businesses to sell tobacco products, including flavored ones, and many existing shops already profit from these sales. 

But those that don’t currently sell may not be able to, if the measure is approved by the City Council, as the city undergoes a period of “research and study” to “begin to explore the extent of the issues of youth vaping and smoking in Santa Clarita,” according to a city staff report. 

The topic is on the table for discussion at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8, when council members are scheduled to consider adopting an urgency ordinance that would place a 45-day tobacco retail moratorium that specifically targets flavored products. 

“For a period of 45 days from Oct. 8, 2019, no retail sale of flavored tobacco products may be commenced within the city limits by any tobacco retailer not currently selling same on the effective date of this ordinance and city staff is directed not to issue any permits or entitlements that would facilitate commencement of such uses,” a section of the ordinance reads. 

In other words, businesses that are currently selling these products within the city limits can continue to sell. 

Adoption of the ordinance will require a 4-out-of-5 vote of the City Council and would take effect immediately, according to the report. If adopted, the matter will return after the 45 days at a public hearing for council members to consider an extension of up to a year from the adoption date. 

Due to the county’s ban in unincorporated territory, such as Castaic, Stevenson Ranch and Val Verde, the city’s worry is that businesses in those areas could relocate to avoid the new regulations and could present “an immediate threat to the health and welfare of the city’s residents — especially youth in the city,” according to the council agenda report.

At least one shop in Stevenson Ranch believes moving operations into the city because of the county’s ordinance — under which businesses will have 180 days to clear their shelves of flavored tobacco — is easier said than done. 

“We’ve been here for 21 years; it’s not that easy to just move,” said Smoke Zone employee Leon Chrikjian. “A (moratorium) or the county’s ban is definitely going to affect us. It’ll start with the county, then the city and then the rest of the state. They don’t care for businesses. I’m heartbroken.”

Council members Bob Kellar and Bill Miranda recommended during a City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday to move the matter onto discussion at the upcoming City Council meeting. 

“We want more time to look at the issue,” Miranda said Thursday. “This is something that came down from the county rather suddenly and we want to make sure that we know all of the elements, what we can and what we can’t do. Rather than go along or go against, a moratorium would give us more time to learn and help us make a better decision and also a chance to reach out to the public for comment.” 

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