Little cigars with fruity or chocolate flavors, also known as flavored cigarillos, could be banned in Alameda County — specifically to retailers in the unincorporated areas of the county, such as Castro Valley and San Lorenzo.
The ban would also prohibit retailers from selling single cigarillos.
“Young people are more likely to buy a single cigarillo, generally sold for less than $1, than a larger pack,” said Paul Cummings of the Alameda County Public Health Department.
Cigarillos are not only popular among young people because of the variety of flavors, but because it’s also a way to smoke marijuana. According to a Mercury News article, young people will dump out the tobacco and replace it with marijuana.
“But they are still smoking tobacco because of the tobacco leaf in the wrapping paper,” said Cummings. “A lot of kids are not aware that they’re using tobacco and are getting habituated when they’re doing that.”
Storeowners would be accountable and subject to fines for selling tobacco to anyone younger than 18. The first violation would be a 30-day suspension of the store’s tobacco sales license or $750. If a store reaches a fourth violation, the suspension increased to one year. For the fifth violation, there would be a revocation of the license.
“That’s not fair,” said Ali Saleh, manager at the Golden Pyramids tobacco store in San Lorenzo. “The owner isn’t there. The owner doesn’t know what’s going once he leaves the business.”
Retailers have questioned the benefits of this ban, according to Bill Mulgrew, Eden Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. People who can’t find cigarillos can easily drive a few blocks to San Leandro to buy them.
"The Eden Area Chamber of Commerce is definitely a firm believer that tobacco products do not belong in the hands of children," he said. "The whole idea of tobacco being targeted toward youth is hideous and should be stopped, but retailers aren't the right party to pressure."