Cracking Down on Nuisance Tobacco Shops

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors voted to draft an ordinance expanding the regulation of nuisance tobacco shops.

They said the ordinance should:

• ban tobacco shops in residential zones;
• ban tobacco shops within a certain distance of residential zones, schools, parks, youth centers and other locations whose primary purpose is to serve children; and
• require tobacco shops to obtain a business license; and
• regulate retailers of electronic and flavored tobacco products.

“Our communities, particularly our youth, are facing new challenges to their health and safety with the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes, not to mention the challenges posed by existing nuisance tobacco shops,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is important that we craft a thoughtful and balanced approach to regulation.”

“My office gets many calls from residents dealing with nuisance smoke shops– shops that are advertising and selling to kids or blowing smoke into their homes,” Supervisor Hahn said. “This is a serious health issue and a quality of life issue and we need new tools to better protect our residents, their children, and their neighborhoods.”

Back in March, the Board directed the County’s Department of Public Health to work with the Department of Regional Planning, County Counsel, Sheriff, Treasurer and Tax Collector, and community stakeholders to assess the number and location of nuisance tobacco shops countywide, ways to monitor them, and best practices for regulating them. The Board also called for developing education and outreach strategies to reduce the use of tobacco and certain other substances.

Some of the workgroup’s findings and recommendations will form the basis of the ordinance, which will be submitted to the Board for approval within 180 days.

“The Public Health Department supports efforts led by Supervisor Ridley Thomas to protect our young people from harmful tobacco products that are often advertised and packaged to appeal to teenagers,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Limiting the proliferation of smoke shops can both reduce youth exposure to tobacco products and address the many concerns of residents living in close proximity to these businesses.”

County Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek added her department “fully supports healthy, thriving neighborhoods, and will advocate with the Board of Supervisors and DPH to implement appropriate regulations to curb the proliferation of tobacco use, particularly smoke shops.”

As part of the workgroup, the nonprofit Community Coalition held a forum to hear the public’s concerns about nuisance tobacco shops. Its director of organizing, Patricia Guerra, welcomed the drafting of an ordinance to address the problem. “It is time to put the people of LA County first and improve the health and safety of all communities by putting an end to the overconcentration of nuisance sites that foster crime and addiction,” she said.