An ordinance to ban the sale of vaping products, further restrict where people can smoke, and enacting a new special tax on tobacco outlets was approved by the Morro Bay City Council, starting a months-long clock ticking until it takes effect.

Ordinance No. 632’s restrictions on smoking at multi-family (apartments/condos) goes into effect this coming Aug. 1; a ban on the sale of vaping products takes effect on Dec. 1; and a new tobacco retailer’s licensing program would start July 1, 2021, according to the City Manager.

The new law ends a lengthy review and debate over beefed up anti-smoking restrictions that were jumpstarted when the American Lung Association gave the City a D-grade in its smoking restrictions, this even though the City has long had an ordinance that prohibits smoking in all public places — from City parks and the beach, to streets and sidewalks.

This prohibition is on top of the State’s prohibition of smoking at indoor public facilities and businesses.

Indeed, State law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of the entrance of any public building.

The City Council held public hearings on the ordinance in October, November, and December 2019, in January and on Feb. 11, when the Council appeared split 3-2 on the new law, delaying action for several weeks.

But that delay turned out to be a holdout for additional restrictions to require tobacco retailers to check IDs for every purchase “regardless of what age the purchaser appears,” according to an April 6 staff report.

The Community Development Department planners would also look at further restricting the locations of tobacco retailers, which would come back later for possible action, depending on how that investigation turns out.

Of the provisions in the law, the new retailer’s license, banning smoking in apartment complexes and banning flavored tobacco (except menthol) came directly from the Lung Association’s report card and are intended to “reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as curtail youth access to tobacco products.”

As to the vaping ban, the impetus for action came from Mayor John Headding and his concern over a rise in vaping by local teenagers as revealed in a student poll, and at both the local middle school and high school.

But in a previous interview, Morro Bay High Principal Kyle Pruitt, said the students they’ve caught with vaping pens of various design and from different manufacturers, were being obtained through websites like Craig’s List and Instagram and not from local stores.

The new law bans smoking in individual units and common areas of apartment and condo complexes, senior and assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities, “except in designated smoking areas.”

It requires all new and renewed leases for multi-unit residences to prohibit smoking; and requires landlords to notify their tenants in writing of the new law and post “No Smoking” signs.
he ordinance prohibits stores with pharmacies from selling tobacco products.
It prohibits the sale of single cigars that cost less than $5, and prohibits breaking apart cigar packs to sell them individually. And it prohibits the sale of packs of cigars containing less than five stogies.
All flavored tobacco products are prohibited except for menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
The vaping ban is complete and covers tobacco vaping products but still allows sales of vaping systems with cannabis (pot) and CBD, which is derived from hemp.
Ironically, MBHS Principal Pruitt said his students were more often being caught with cannabis and CBD vaping pens.
However, the City awarded two medical marijuana dispensary licenses that should open some time soon. A large portion of those businesses’ sales are vaping delivery systems.
The dispensaries are anticipated to give the City a boost in sales tax revenues, as well as monies from a special 5% tax the City placed on their sales.
Morro Bay’s vaping ban is happening parallel to proposed or already enacted bans in the City of San Luis Obispo and SLO County and when those bans are fully enacted, it would force those who use e-cigarettes or vaping systems to drive out of the area to buy them or get their products online, because a ban on sales and restrictions on where one can vape, still does not ban their use for those over 21.
The City got some pushback from a business association out of Sacramento. Jivtesh Gill, chairman of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association (APCA), asked council members to oppose the vaping ban and restrictions on sales of tobacco products, including specifically the sale of flavored products.
“The sale of flavored tobacco products are an important part of a retailer’s business model,” Gill said. “Tobacco sales drive ancillary sales of gas, food, snacks and other items sold at our stores and gas stations. If we lose the ability to sell flavored tobacco products, our customers will go elsewhere. If this ban is adopted, customers will simply turn to ordering flavored tobacco products over the Internet or traveling a short distance to another city that allows the sale of all tobacco products.”
He explains why they oppose the ordinance. “We oppose this sweeping sales ban,” he said, “as it eliminates an entire category of products from our stores despite the fact that flavored traditional tobacco products [cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars] are not attractive to youth.
“Banning legal products at licensed retail locations would undermine the city’s and the state’s tobacco retail licensing program, which has successfully limited youth access to tobacco, protected consumers from adulterated products, and given government enforcement tools.”
The City previously said there were 19 local businesses that sell tobacco products, including two “smoke shop” specialty stores, who would be hit hardest by the ban.
“The tobacco regulations may have an impact on the local economy in a way that would affect City finances,” the City admitted, “but the nature and extent of such effects are currently unknown.”

The ordinance prohibits stores with pharmacies from selling tobacco products.

It prohibits the sale of single cigars that cost less than $5, and prohibits breaking apart cigar packs to sell them individually. And it prohibits the sale of packs of cigars containing less than five stogies.

All flavored tobacco products are prohibited except for menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

The vaping ban is complete and covers tobacco vaping products but still allows sales of vaping systems with cannabis (pot) and CBD, which is derived from hemp.

Ironically, MBHS Principal Pruitt said his students were more often being caught with cannabis and CBD vaping pens.

However, the City awarded two medical marijuana dispensary licenses that should open some time soon. A large portion of those businesses’ sales are vaping delivery systems.

The dispensaries are anticipated to give the City a boost in sales tax revenues, as well as monies from a special 5% tax the City placed on their sales.

Morro Bay’s vaping ban is happening parallel to proposed or already enacted bans in the City of San Luis Obispo and SLO County and when those bans are fully enacted, it would force those who use e-cigarettes or vaping systems to drive out of the area to buy them or get their products online, because a ban on sales and restrictions on where one can vape, still does not ban their use for those over 21.

The City got some pushback from a business association out of Sacramento. Jivtesh Gill, chairman of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association (APCA), asked council members to oppose the vaping ban and restrictions on sales of tobacco products, including specifically the sale of flavored products.

“The sale of flavored tobacco products are an important part of a retailer’s business model,” Gill said. “Tobacco sales drive ancillary sales of gas, food, snacks and other items sold at our stores and gas stations. If we lose the ability to sell flavored tobacco products, our customers will go elsewhere. If this ban is adopted, customers will simply turn to ordering flavored tobacco products over the Internet or traveling a short distance to another city that allows the sale of all tobacco products.”

He explains why they oppose the ordinance. “We oppose this sweeping sales ban,” he said, “as it eliminates an entire category of products from our stores despite the fact that flavored traditional tobacco products [cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars] are not attractive to youth.

“Banning legal products at licensed retail locations would undermine the city’s and the state’s tobacco retail licensing program, which has successfully limited youth access to tobacco, protected consumers from adulterated products, and given government enforcement tools.”

The City previously said there were 19 local businesses that sell tobacco products, including two “smoke shop” specialty stores, who would be hit hardest by the ban.

“The tobacco regulations may have an impact on the local economy in a way that would affect City finances,” the City admitted, “but the nature and extent of such effects are currently unknown.”