Hamilton City Council to consider new Tobacco Retail License this week

Hamilton is considering a new license for retailers that sell tobacco, nicotine and vaping products and accessories. BILL LACKEY/FILE

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Hamilton is considering a new license for retailers that sell tobacco, nicotine and vaping products and accessories. BILL LACKEY/FILE

By March 1, all Hamilton tobacco retailers will be required to obtain a license to sell the product within the city limits, if proposed legislation is approved this week.

Hamilton City Council is to consider legislation at its Wednesday meeting that would create the Tobacco Retail License at an annual cost of $250 per seller. The primary objective is to ensure tobacco retailers are not selling these products, and the accessories to the projects, to those under 21, said Hamilton Planning Director Liz Hayden.

Since 2019, no tobacco, nicotine, and vaping products are permitted to be sold in the United States to anyone under 21.

“But there’s no existing enforcement effort regarding underaged sales,” said Hayden. “Municipalities have begun creating tobacco licensing programs to improve compliance efforts regarding underaged sales.”

In the southwest Ohio region, Cincinnati and Norwood have created such licenses, and Hamilton’s is modeled after those communities.

According to the city’s proposal, the city’s health department will conduct inspection and compliance checks, and can issue fines, and suspend or revoke licenses if retailers are caught selling to people under 21. Hayden said the city of Cincinnati has undercover buyers as part of its reviews, and the last review saw more than 40% of Cincinnati retailers sold to a person under 21.

“We’ve been working on this for a while, and it’s been a cross-departmental effort,” Hayden said, adding that the health, planning, and law departments, as well as the city clerk’s office, have worked on this. The Hamilton-based Envision Partnerships, a drug prevention organization, has also worked on the development of the program.

The city’s law department and the law offices of Frost Brown Todd completed a legal review.

The March 1 launch of the license program gives the health department time to implement it. Once in effect, the city of Hamilton Health Department will complete an annual inspection of all tobacco retailers and may conduct additional inspections as needed.

Tobacco products include electronic smoking products, all components, parts, and accessories.

Additionally, City Council will look to add definitions of “tobacco, nicotine, and vaping sales” in the city’s zoning ordinance. The city will define it, according to the proposal, as any retail establishment that devotes at least 20% of its floor or display area to the sale of tobacco products, or derives at least 51% of gross sales receipts from the sale of tobacco products.

Those retailers could only operate in a B-2 community business zone, the city’s most common business zone, or in a business planned development.

Future tobacco, nicotine and vaping sales would not be permitted within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school, a youth center, a licensed child care facility, or preschool. Also, these retailers would not be allowed to make sales within 500 feet of a park or library. This does not impact existing retailers that would be within the respective 1,000-foot and 500-foot limits.

Letters had been sent out to existing retail tobacco retailers making them aware of the proposal, and invited to an ordinance review hearing.

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