Columbia once more considers licenses for tobacco, vapor stores

The Columbia City Council will once more discuss the possibility of new rules for stores selling nicotine products.

The council will hear a report sent from the city's Board of Health on a licensing process and compliance checks. 

The board has previously brought up the idea to the council as a way to both get ahead of the growing popularity of vapor smoking products and to ensure stores are only selling to people 21 years old and up. 

The proposed ordinance lays out a process stores must take to get a license in order to sell tobacco, smoking paraphernalia and vapor products. Businesses would have to display the license, and would not be allowed to display its smoking products unless it gets a license. The city would also embark on compliance checks to ensure businesses follow the rules.

The rules also change the fine structure stores would face if caught not following the rules. Right now, stores face a $100 fine for the first time it's caught, up to $1,000 if it's caught four or more times in a two-year span. The new rules call for a fine to be imposed by the municipal judge anywhere between $200 and $1,000, plus "any other remedies allowed by law."

Board director Dr. Michael Szewczyk wrote that the licensing and compliance checks would help Columbia catch up in curbing teen smoking.

"With the development and promotion of vaping products that include nicotine, this only adds to the urgency," Szewczyk wrote. "It only makes sense that we do what we can to prevent our teens from becoming addicted to nicotine."

Several smoking stores ABC 17 News reached out to said they wanted to review the proposed rules before commenting on them.


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