AMERICAN CANYON -- American Canyon does not have any smoke shops or tobacco stores, or even ones that exclusively sell e-cigarettes, a popular habit among today’s youth.
City leaders decided this week to keep it this way by adopting an ordinance that prohibits such businesses from opening in town.
Tuesday’s decision was the first of two votes on the ordinance. The council intends to bring the matter back at its next meeting and vote on it again, presumably with the same unanimous outcome. Government bodies do a second vote to make sure any changes to the ordinance after the first vote are accurate.
The new prohibition, which was nearly a year in the making, was prompted when an entrepreneur approached City Hall early in 2015 about starting a tobacco-related business.
The request caught city officials off guard after they realized the zoning code lacked any language or sections that prevented these businesses in American Canyon.
The City Council tackled the problem by first adopting an emergency ordinance that kept the would-be tobacco shop from moving forward, giving council members time to unanimously adopt a permanent ban Tuesday evening.
It is the first of its kind in Napa County.
“As a city, we’ve already taken action to make our parks tobacco-free” and to maintain “a clean healthy environment” in American Canyon, Councilmember Belia Ramos said Tuesday in supporting the ordinance.
Vice Mayor Joan Bennett agreed, saying the development of stores that focus on selling cigarettes was a bad fit for the “family-oriented community.”
“There are so many young people who get involved in cigarette use,” said Bennett, who was in favor of discouraging smoking among teenagers or to at least make it harder for them to start.
“I’m happy to make them go a few miles down the road” to Vallejo if they really want to smoke or vape, she said.
Bennett was referring to a staff report indicating Vallejo has nearly 20 businesses that cater to tobacco products or the growing e-cigarette and hookah lounge trade.
The same report, prepared by Community Development Director Brent Cooper, cited the U.S. Surgeon General while stating “tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic in the United States because 99 percent of all first tobacco use occurs by age 26.”
It further justified the adoption of the new ordinance by noting the practice of tobacco companies to “capitalize on the vulnerability of our youth, minorities, lower-income residents, and young adults to promote their products.”
The ban will not apply to retailers like Safeway or Wal-Mart that sell tobacco or smokeless products as part of a much larger product mix.