City’s tobacco-sales ban may burn out 

A proposal to prohibit the sale of tobacco within 1,000 feet of San Francisco schools appears headed for the ashtray amid concerns it would hurt businesses.

In recent years, The City has increased the cost of purchasing a package of cigarettes with a 20-cent litter fee, prohibited the sale of tobacco in drugstores and expanded no-smoking zones throughout San Francisco.

But the latest effort to crack down on tobacco, proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, does not appear to have enough support to become law. It would ban the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 feet of private and public kindergarten through 12th-grade schools. It’s meant to reduce the sale of tobacco products to minors and decrease their rate of smoking.

The Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee voted Monday to send the legislation to the full board, but with a recommendation to not approve it.

Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu and John Avalos said the legislation would not have the intended impact and instead The City should focus on enforcement.

The Arab American Grocers Association, which represents hundreds of small businesses that sell tobacco products, opposed the legislation and said it would take away a vital revenue source.

“The economy is very bad. And those people who are investing their time and money and hard work on those stores, this is the only source of income for them and for their employees,” said Shakeeb Khaileh, president of the association.

The legislation was supported by Department of Public Health Director Mitch Katz, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia and a number of anti-smoking advocates.

Elsbernd questioned business restrictions altogether.

“Is the next piece of legislation out of the Mayor’s Office no liquor stores within 1,000 feet? Where do we stop?” he said.

Businesses that currently sell tobacco products in these areas could continue selling them under the proposal, but the legislation would not allow new ones. Existing businesses could transfer their permits to immediate family members to continue selling tobacco in the location or they can transfer the permit to somewhere outside the area. A tobacco-sales permit costs $211 annually.

“This is an important step towards preventing the next generation of kids from becoming smokers,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said. “We’ll continue working with members of the board to pass a common-sense bill that restricts tobacco sales near schools.”

Clearing the air

San Francisco has several restrictions against where tobacco can be sold, along with where people can smoke.

Clean air in parks

What: Bans smoking in opens areas under the jurisdiction of The City, including parks, squares, gardens and playing fields

Adopted: February 2005

On the links

What: Bans smoking on public golf courses

Adopted: May 2006

Drugstore sales ban

What: Ban on the sale of tobacco products in drugstores citywide

Adopted: August 2008

Smoke-free taxis

What: Bans smoking in taxicabs and other motor vehicles for hire

Adopted: December 2008

20 cents

What: Fee charged per cigarette pack purchase; goes toward litter abatement

Adopted: July 2009

Don’t smoke there

Adopted: No-smoking areas expanded to include “service waiting areas” — like ATM, telephone and movie theater lines — common areas of residential buildings, outdoor cafes and restaurant patios; smokers must be “at the curb of the nearest street, sidewalk or alley” when near entrances, exits and windows of buildings

Adopted: March 2010

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