Hamilton amends its tobacco license ordinance

Change requires licensee to initiate annual renewals.

After Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill that would have nixed Hamilton’s efforts to license tobacco and vaping shops, City Council this month amended the program.

Last year, Hamilton enacted legislation that would require tobacco and vaping shops to obtain a $250 annual license with the city of Hamilton’s health department that takes effect on March 1. The ordinance ensures proper training and enforcement of the restrictions of tobacco product sales to those under 21.

However, the city needed to amend the licensing ordinance with regard to renewing licenses. As it was originally written, application renewals were the city health department’s responsibility, but that goes against other licensing programs, according to a staff report from acting health director Cindy Hogg.

“The responsibility (for renewal) should be placed on the tobacco retailer to ensure compliance with licensing in the city,” according to Hogg. “With all other licensing programs under the health department’s jurisdiction, the responsibility of the renewal application is under the licensee. It is important to ensure uniformity with all licensing programs.”

The health department could still provide renewal applications to a tobacco retailer, but Hogg said that would be a policy decision and not a requirement under the city ordinance.

Credit: Brooke LaValley

Credit: Brooke LaValley

Just after the New Year, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed House Bill 513, which was designed to lessen restrictions on wholesale tobacco, the state’s fourth-largest source of tax revenue. Specifically, the bill, which passed the General Assembly on Dec. 15, would have prevented local governments from any type of regulations of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products, like e-cigarettes.

When issuing the veto, DeWine called the bill “not in the public interest.”

“When a local community wants to make the decision to ban these flavors to protect their children, we should applaud those decisions,” he said.

While Hamilton’s licensing program does not ban tobacco products, it does restrict them.

Hamilton City Council approved the new licensing program in June, where all tobacco retailers, current and future, would be required to obtain a $250 tobacco retailer license. The goal of the program is to ensure retailers are not selling tobacco products to those younger than 21, which became the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The program will provide training and enforcement of the restrictions on sales of tobacco products, and the city’s health department will complete a yearly inspection of all tobacco retailers.

The health department may conduct additional inspections if needed, according to the ordinance.

Though youth smoking rates have decreased, Ohio health officials believe the rise in vaping is reversing that trend. It’s been reported that a third of Ohio high school students have reported either using e-cigarettes or vape products in the past 30 days.

DeWine also said in his veto of HB 513 that a ban on flavored tobacco products, which make the products enticing to young people, would “save a lot of lives” and “save a lot of children from starting down a pathway that in 20 years, 25 years, 30 years may end up costing them their lives.”

Hamilton Council member Joel Lauer said city staff is currently doing a good job in enforcing the regulations on the books, but it’s an issue that needs more monitoring.

“As the data continues to indicate that youth usage continues to rise, as we look into this usage in the future, I would like to see more policing in addressing these vape shops in regards to acting responsibly amongst our youth,” said the Hamilton High School educator. “I just would like to encourage our staff to continue policing this; they’re doing a good job, however, there are some that may not act responsibly.”

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