San Francisco youth group targets tobacco retailers


A few years ago, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban drug stores like Walgreens from selling cigarettes. The new effort goes after new retailors and where they would be allowed to set up shop.

There are approximately 1,000 stores in San Francisco that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"We don't think it's necessary to have four or five different stores that sell tobacco in one block," said Jesus Sicairos, a member of San Francisco's Youth Leadership Institute.

The organization calls the availability of tobacco a social justice issue and has spent years working on the proposal.

After conducting research, the group found cigarettes are much more available in low-income communities. For example, the South of Market and the Tenderloin neighborhoods have 270 stores, while the Marina District has 51 and the Inner Sunset neighborhood has 37.

"That's not fair. That's not just in our communities and so we want to create a fair, even playing field, even amount of tobacco permits across the city of San Francisco," said Particia Barahona of San Francisco's Youth Leadership Institute.

The Leadership Institute wants to limit the number of new permits, but allow stores to keep their existing permits. When a retailor sells or goes out of business, the new owner can't offer cigarettes if there are already too many in the district.

"I feel that's not fair for the business," said Assad Ibrahim, an owner of a small market in the Mission District. "If I want to sell you this business and you know these conditions going to be enforced on you, you're going to change your mind about buying the business."

A smoking rights group called Citizen's Freedom Alliance says the attempt to limit permits amounts to bullying, but the youth group says it's not targeting smokers themselves.

"It's not that were telling people to stop but we're just saying, maybe 270 permits in your little area is a little too much," said Sicairos.

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