Sonoma Co. supervisors vote to raise price of cigarettes to $7, charge store owners fee

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Sonoma Co. supes vote to raise price of cigarettes to $7
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The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on measures that would make it more difficult to buy and sell cigarettes.

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A battle over cigarette sales has small store owners fuming and children's advocates smiling in Sonoma County. The board of supervisors voted Tuesday on measures that would make it more difficult to buy and sell cigarettes.

It's been a year in the making and it's going to be more than another year in the implementing. There was a show of force by both sides before the vote.

It was standing room only at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors; something we haven't seen that for a while, or an issue as incendiary.

"Bold policies that make products in that products inconvenient and less attractive is where we should be going right now," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.

And that's where the board went -- a unanimous vote to raise the price of cigarettes to $7 in unincorporated Sonoma County and to charge store owners a license fee to sell them.

At the Larkfield Liquor and Deli on Redwood Highway, this move was not popular with owner Ned Mogannam or with customers.

"It hurts a lot," he said. "Big time."

Smoker Wanda Rueckert adds, "Then I probably won't smoke as much. Maybe I will have to start smoking marijuana."

The board's main target -- youth. Studies show that heavy smokers often get hooked at an early age.

Alex Diaz-Pena knows firsthand. He's already lost an uncle and a friend to cancer.

"They would still be here if they didn't smoke, you know?" said the El Molino High School junior.

And yet, there are plenty of naysayers. Representatives of stores selling tobacco spoke long and with passion about government legislating behavior.

"Are we going to have them start regulating the price of donuts, candy bars, alcohol? Do you think people in this county would stand for regulating the price of wine?" asked store owner spokesperson Nick Tibbets.

No, just cigarettes for now; much to the satisfaction of many Sonoma County parents.

"I think it is the government's responsibility to protect the health of the population," said parent Jennifer McClendon. "If we can limit access and limit youth from starting to smoke before the age of 18, we would have had success."