Tobacco license ordinance

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COLUMBIA - In the near future, stores in Columbia may have to apply for a license to sell tobacco products in the city. The city's board of health discussed the potential ordinance in Thursday night's meeting.

Board members said the purpose of the ordinance is to help enforce the city's 21-year-old age requirement to purchase tobacco products. The city has struggled to enforce that age requirement ever since they raised it from 18 to 21 in December of 2014. According to the FDA Tobacco Compliance Database, 26 percent of tobacco retailers in Columbia had at least one violation after the age requirement was raised. 

Public health assistant director Scott Clardy said the new ordinance would help the city keep track of tobacco retailers.

"It would benefit the city in several ways. Number one being we would know where all the tobacco outlets are in the city, and we really don't have a good handle on that right now," he said. "So, that would be a huge benefit for us to be able to know where all those outlets are." 

Just like the 21-year-old requirement, vapor tobacco products would also have to follow the licensing ordinance. 

Morgan Poteet, the manager at Vapor Maven, said he's fine with the 21 and over law for buying tobacco products; however, he said taking on the burden of enforcement isn't fair for the stores.

"I don't think we should be lumped in as a quick fix for tobacco law," Poteet said. "We're regulated enough, yet we don't get trained to identify fake IDs."

Another employee of Vapor Maven, Audrey Henson, said she isn't sure the new license would help with enforcing the age requirement.

"I don't think another paper on the wall will stop kids from getting really good fake IDs," Henson said. 

The licensing ordinance is still in development as the city finishes up its research.

The ordinance may be ready by the department of health's next meeting on March eighth.