82 Hamilton tobacco retailers are licensed 6 months into new program

Credit: Gerry Broome

Credit: Gerry Broome

As Fairfield considers changes to its zoning and local laws concerning tobacco and vape retailers, the city of Hamilton is moving along with its newly enacted licensing program.

In 2022, Hamilton City Council established a licensing program for tobacco and vape shops to obtain an annual $250 license, which went into effect on March 1 this year. This ordinance ensures proper training of clerks and employees and the enforcement of the sale of tobacco and vape products to those under 21.

Hamilton Department of Health Director Cindy Hogg said 82 licensed tobacco retailers are in the city.

“We are in the process of conducting unannounced compliance checks for these retailers,” she said. “We continue to work with the tobacco retailers to help them understand the city ordinance.”

The city’s health department has completed about 75% of the compliance checks, and since the licensing ordinance became effective, the health department has issued four civil citations against licensed tobacco retailers under the ordinance.

“These civil citations were all for selling tobacco products to underage persons,” Hogg said. “All four licensed retailers paid their fines without contesting their violations.”

Last month, Fairfield city staff presented City Council with several options to curb the number of tobacco and vape shops opening in the city, especially in proximity of each other. The issue for city officials around these types of businesses is youth are purchasing or have access to these products, and in Ohio, as of late 2019, it’s illegal to sell or distribute any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under 21 years old.

There are several tobacco and vape stores within a few hundred feet of each other along Pleasant Avenue and Nilles Road, and tobacco and vape shops are defined as establishments that have at least 30% of their retail space dedicated to tobacco and/or vape (also known as e-cigarette) products and accessories.

According to the city, there are 42 businesses in Fairfield that sell traditional tobacco products, and of those establishments, nearly 90% sell vape products. A dozen of those businesses are almost exclusively vape shops.

The city is considering a few regulations, including limiting the location of new shops, adopting state codes into the local codes, and enhancing enforcement efforts. The city is not at this time considering a licensing program nor a ban on flavors, though other states and local governments have or will ban flavored tobacco and vape products, including the cities of Columbus and Bexley in Ohio.

Fairfield will also consider implementing a temporary moratorium on new tobacco and vape stores in the city. It could be a six- or nine-month ban as the administration and council further discuss the matter.

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