I own a small vape and smoke shop in Sacramento. I pay taxes, I pay rent and I pay employees. My small business is how I support my family.
The City of Sacramento is proposing to pass an ordinance banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the city limits. The ordinance is not limited to actual tobacco products, but also includes e-cigarettes and all vapor products. A ban of all flavored vapor products will result in an actual ban on all vapor products, since there is no such thing as an unflavored vapor product.
At my store, vapor products make up 85 percent of my sales. If the flavor ban is approved, I will lose my business. There are many other small business owners who are in the same situation. We would all lose our businesses.
Recently, the mayor and City Council have said that they want to use a portion of the Measure U sales tax money to invest in our most challenging neighborhoods so that people have the opportunity to become small business owners. I’m a small business owner. The proposed flavor ban will close small businesses like mine and significantly reduce the city’s sales tax revenues.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento has increased sales taxes twice, once in 2012 and, more recently, in 2018. As our schools continue to face budget cuts and city officials hunt for new sources of income, it makes absolutely no financial sense to dramatically cut city tax revenue.
The proponents of the flavor ban are rightly concerned about underage vaping. We are, too. These products are illegal for anyone under 21 in California – just like alcohol, cigarettes and cannabis. Sacramento already has a lot of experience in regulating the sale of these age-restricted products. We want to help to keep these products out of the hands of minors.
I’m part of a group of store owners who have been working on an alternative set of regulations to increase the protection of minors and allow responsible retailers to sell flavored vapor products to adults. A lot of my customers are actually people who use flavored vapor products as a way to quit smoking real cigarettes.
Brick-and-mortar stores have developed training programs to identify potential underage buyers. We’ve all seen the yellow and red “We Card” signs. The program itself also provides retailers with specially-developed training and other prevention strategies to keep age-restricted products out of the hands of minors. No ID, no sale.
We are willing to do more. We are suggesting a ban on any product the city decides is knowingly attractive to minors. We are committed to only selling responsibly packaged products that are clearly marketed to adults.
We are advocating severe penalties for any retailer who violates the proposed ordinance, including a loss of their license. We are also suggesting the city require all retailers to install improved point of sale age-verification software to ensure the ID presented is valid.
As the owner of a small business, I fully understand and accept that I am critically positioned to prevent the sale of age-restricted products to underage customers. We care about our customers, and we do not take our responsibility to the community lightly.
We believe there are better ways to keep these products out of the hands of minors without taking away our businesses.