Dublin may pass tougher laws against tobacco retailers

January 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Dublin was the first Bay Area city to declare secondhand smoke a public nuisance. It paved the way for other Bay Area cities to pass stricter smoking laws and now it's poised to rejoin them with tough new laws against tobacco retailers.

There are 24 retail stores in Dublin that sell tobacco, and most of them are convenience stores and gas stations.

"You know they have to license their Slurpee machine? Even a Slurpee machine needs a license and how dangerous is that?" asked Karen Seals, a Dublin resident, to the City Council.

In its discussion to tighten laws on tobacco sales, the City Council agreed it should craft a law forcing new retailers to pay a licensing fee. They also want the stores to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, parks and residential areas, but some stores are already within the restricted zone.

"I'm not going to punish those who are already here. And I think they should be grandfathered in," said Dublin City Councilmember Kasie Hildenberg.

"I just think it's dishonest intellectually to say, 'Well, you've already been doing it, it's bad, but we're going to let you do it.' That just doesn't make sense to me," said Councilmember Eric Swalwell.

The council also wants to limit the number of retailers in one given area with at least a 1,000 foot buffer zone between them. One problem that arises with the density guideline is that in the Dublin Plaza Shopping Center alone, there are four stores that sell tobacco products and they're within 1,000 feet of each other.

Dublin City Attorney John Bakker cautioned the council that if it doesn't want to grandfather in the existing stores, they could get sued.

"If the council does choose not to grandfather, we're going to have to take a careful look at how exactly it applies to different businesses and make sure we have enough escape valves, so we don't have a situation where we have to compensate somebody for it," said Bakker.

It's still a few months away from voting on an ordinance, but if Dublin passes the licensing requirement and distance restrictions, it'll join Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and Union City.