COLUMBIA — Columbia city council members cracked down on the underage sales of tobacco and vapor products Tuesday by creating a new tobacco license.
The license helps city leaders keep track of who is selling the products.
Columbia city leaders said their new tobacco licenses would give them a complete list of the businesses selling tobacco and vapor products. City leaders said they don’t know exactly how many places in Columbia are selling the nicotine products.
We “B” Smokin’ store manager Melissa Walton sells thousands of packs of cigarettes and vapor products every week. Walton said Columbia’s new tobacco license had no impact on her business because she cards everyone buying tobacco and vapor products.
“I’m not really too worried about it. We follow guidelines and protocols," Walton said. "We do everything we are supposed to do.”
The new ordinance allows city leaders to have inspections and random checks for violations. Columbia is above the state average for underage sales of tobacco and vapor products. Columbia city leaders hoped their new tobacco licenses identify all businesses selling the products to help prevent underage sales.
“Now that we’ve established the licensing regime, the next step will be to look for an appropriate ballot and bring it before the people and see if we want to charge for that license so that we can do more heavy inspections and make the ordinance more effective,” Columbia Councilman Mike Trapp said.
The new fines for selling tobacco to minors are between $200 and $1000. Columbia retailers have until June 30 to get their tobacco license at no cost from the city. The new ordinance takes effect on July 1 when Columbia’s new business licenses go into place.