Assessing the Impact of Nuisance Tobacco Shops

L-R: John Yi with the American Lung Association, Robert Baird with the Prevention Institute; and Alberto Retana of Community Coalition, testify before the Board of Supervisors. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to take a closer look at tobacco shops in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, and to assess their impact on the health and safety of the communities around them.

The motion, authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, also called for examining potential regulations to address nuisance tobacco shops, as well as education and outreach strategies to curb tobacco use.

“Currently, smoke shops in LA County are allowed by-right in commercial zones and do not need a special business licenses,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “There is no way to track or monitor them. We do not know how many there are, let alone how they operate. Not all of them may be problematic, and the crimes and concerns that affect certain communities may not touch others. Still, I would like to hear about the best practices and regulatory options we have, including possible changes to tobacco retailer licensing and land use regulations.”

A 2017 study by the University of California Riverside School of Medicine suggested tobacco shops “may constitute nuisance properties associated with dangerous neighborhood conditions for crime and violence.” Meanwhile, the nonprofit Community Coalition’s 2017 South LA People’s Poll found 64 percent of adults and 44 percent of youth are “very concerned” with criminal activity at and surrounding smoke shops.

While California’s smoke-free laws prohibit smoking in most businesses, there are exemptions for businesses whose “main purpose” is the sale of tobacco products, as well as for private smokers’ lounges, defined as enclosed areas in or attached to a tobacco shop.

Andrew Subica, one of the authors of the UC Riverside study that showed a link between tobacco shops and dangerous neighborhood conditions. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

“Our research states that tobacco shops are a potentially serious but unaddressed public health danger,” Prof. Andrew Subica, one of the primary authors of the UC Riverside study, told the Board. “We strongly support this motion to allocate public resources to identify and assess the scope of the tobacco shop problem.”

“Without reliable enforcement, the overconcentration of alcohol retail outlets in communities of color a generation ago can easily repeat itself with tobacco shops retailing cannabis,” warned Robert Baird, an urban planner at the nonprofit Prevention Institute. “In reality, this process appears to be well underway and with similar impacts for addiction, public safety and disinvestment.”

“For decades, Big Tobacco has focused on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color to market their deadly products,” added John Yi, advocacy director for the American Lung Association in California. “With the astronomical rise of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products, these community stores have become ground zero for the industries’ tactics towards addicting future generations of smokers.”

Community Coalition President and CEO Alberto Retana said, “This motion is a key step… to not only create an environment that respects the dignity and quality of life in South LA, but to ensure that the goods and services we deliver are those that speak to our highest aspirations.”

The Board directed the Departments of Public Health, Regional Planning, County Counsel, Sheriff, Treasurer and Tax Collector, and key community stakeholders, to report back on nuisance tobacco shops within 120 days.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas appointed to national leadership position

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has been appointed chairman of the Nominating Committee of the National Association of Counties (NACo), which unites officials from the United States’ 3,069 county governments to advocate with a collective voice on national policy.

NACo President Roy Charles Brooks with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the most recent NACo Conference and Exposition, held in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2017.

At NACo’s Annual Conference in Nashville/Davidson County, Tenn., on July 13-16, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will play an instrumental role in NACo’s governance process. The Nominating Committee is tasked with reviewing the credentials of candidates to NACo’s Board of Directors and the position of Second Vice President, who typically goes on to serve as President.

“I am honored to represent Los Angeles County in this capacity at the national level,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “I look forward to chairing the committee that is essential in selecting NACo’s leaders, who work tirelessly to maintain healthy, vibrant and safe counties across the United States.”

“County governments are on the frontlines of delivering vital services, from healthcare to law enforcement to basic infrastructure and more,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “NACo gives us an opportunity to stand together around issues of national importance, and work together to better serve our constituents.”

Last spring, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas partnered with NACo to host a forum in Washington, D.C. on the importance of counties collaborating to eradicate homelessness nationwide.

“Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long demonstrated sound judgment, integrity and fairness – all key virtues for this chairmanship and ensuring the vitality of NACo’s leadership for years to come,” said NACo President Roy Charles Brooks, who announced the appointment. “As the leader of the largest county in America, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas brings exceptional experience in governing and achieving results. We are pleased that he has accepted this mission-critical role and look forward to continuing to work with him in support of counties nationwide.”

Founded in 1935, NACo brings together county officials nationwide to exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public’s understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service.

MLK Community Hospital In the News

Two and a half years after it opened, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) continues to provide outstanding medical care to patients from across South Los Angeles and beyond. It, along with the other facilities that make up the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, is also uplifting the quality of life in the community.


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ABC7 Eyewitness Newsmakers:
MLK Community Hospital


By Adrienne Alpert

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — New plans for the vacant King Drew Medical Center were announced on Eyewitness Newsmakers. The 500,000-square-foot facility will be a new behavioral health center. Funding of $250 million will come from L.A. County’s Department of Health Services. The announcement was made exclusively by Eyewitness Newsmakers guests L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

To read the the rest of the story, click here.

FAQs on Cannabis Legalization

Legalized Cannabis is Here

What L.A. County Residents Need to Know in 2018

With retail cannabis sales set to begin in California on Jan. 1, 2018, Los Angeles County residents should be aware of what is — and is not — permitted in their communities.

Although some local cities, including Los Angeles, have opted to permit commercial cannabis operations, many other areas have not, including unincorporated parts of L.A. County. In addition to meeting all local permitting requirements, cannabis businesses must also obtain licenses from the state of California.

Under the new state laws, sales of adult-use cannabis to people under the age of 21 are never permitted, and cannabis can only be purchased legally from licensed retail outlets. It will remain illegal to smoke cannabis in public or to drive under the influence.

Earlier this month, LA County’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) released a set of proposed cannabis policies for unincorporated areas of the county. The policies seek to “prioritize the protection of public safety and health as well as the quality of life in our communities,” and are tentatively scheduled for consideration by the LA County Board of Supervisors in January.

Supervisors already have adopted a health and sanitation ordinance for cannabis businesses. The ordinance, approved on Dec. 19, 2017, establishes clear health and safety standards for those preparing and selling cannabis products. The ordinance also requires businesses to abide by operational standards to avoid adversely affecting neighbors. The LA County Department of Public Health is working with cities that will permit commercial cannabis operations to implement the new ordinance countywide.

OCM is also developing a universal emblem program for cannabis retailers that will include a campaign to educate consumers. Once the program begins in the months ahead, the distinctive emblem, similar to a restaurant grade, will let consumers know at a glance whether a cannabis business is licensed.

For more information, including proposed cannabis regulations for the unincorporated areas, frequently asked questions, resources for parents and teens, and rules for personal cannabis cultivation, please visit:



Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management

Phone: (213-974-4530)