BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Talk of a new city ordinance meant to stop the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 continues and soon the Bakersfield City Council could act upon it.
According to the Bakersfield City Attorney’s Office, the city has a tobacco ordinance that restricts anyone under 21 to use, possess or buy tobacco products but it does not count with a retail tobacco permit.
Deterring the sale of tobacco products to minors has been steadily dropping in Kern County, but city leaders in the Safer Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee think more can be done by adopting a city permit to sell tobacco, a move inspired by a county ordinance with one goal in mind.
“To look at how easily accessible tobacco products are to our youth,” said Brynn Carrigan, Director of Kern County Public Health.
Under Kern County’s Tobacco Retailer’s Permit Ordinance tobacco vendors must pay $135 annually to the county Public Health Department for a retailer’s permit. Additional yearly monetary penalties for any violations committed are incurred, violations caught by underage county decoys.
“We send them into tobacco facilities that are permitted by our department every year,” said Carrigan. “Many times, unfortunately, they are able to purchase those tobacco products.”
According to Kern County Public Health data, since its start, the county’s tobacco program reported 135 violations in fiscal year 2016-2017. The next year 99 were reported and a year later only 35 violations were committed.
Shopkeepers like Prithvi Singh at Greenacres Liquor don’t mind another annual fee if it is going to help deter underage sales.
“If Bakersfield needs the money to help stop the illegal sales, then we are happy to help,” said Singh.
Others who aren’t entirely opposed to deterring underage sales say, current rules are more than enough.
“Minors under 21, we don’t sell,” said Rajeev Makrmi at Lucky 7 Liquor. “Whatever the law is right now is good, right?”
Councilmembers Arias and Gonzalez requested that the conversation on this ordinance continue at the next city council meeting.