Businesses Alarmed at Berkeley Tobacco Law

     BERKELEY, Calif. (CN) – The Berkeley City Council is gearing up to vote on a law that could regulate the city’s tobacco and “vape” merchants more strictly than its cannabis dispensaries.
     The proposed ordinance would prohibit the sale of tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks and require anyone selling e-cigarettes to get a tobacco retailer’s license.
     Modeled after a Chicago law that created 500-foot “buffer zones,” the ordinance was proposed last year by Councilman Darryl Moore and is scheduled for a vote in May.
     Opposition from business interests, however, has the City Council is taking a closer look at the potential side effects of the law.
     Councilwoman Linda Maio said in an interview that the ordinance is “part of a continuum” of what the city has been doing over the years to reduce the use of tobacco.
     “It has such serious health effects, we know that now,” Maio said. “But a lot of people still smoke, and particularly young people do. This is part and parcel of what we’ve been working on, as a social value.”
     But small business owners have said the law could hurt them severely, so Maio said the City Council is taking a harder look at it.
     “It’s a real hardship on those small businesses that have been there for a long time and for whom tobacco is their main product,” she said. “It’s not just incidental, as it would be for a convenience store. So it’s the kind of thing that requires a lot more study.”
     Maio said that though the intention of the ordinance is good, “We need to be a little bit more thoughtful, especially when, in one case, we’re talking about ruining someone’s retirement future.
     “I don’t know what we’ll do yet,” she said. “But we will slow down and take a good look at it.
     “We’re not moving for prohibition, that’s for sure. But it’s important for people to know that smoking has serious consequences. We consider that a social value.”
     Councilman Moore could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

%d bloggers like this: