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Kent City Council eyes tobacco retail license fee to curb underage smoking, vaping

City council is expected to review, likely vote on proposal Wednesday evening
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Posted at 6:15 AM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 06:15:27-04

KENT, Ohio — It's a full-scale crackdown on kids smoking and vaping.

City of Kent officials is looking to stop underage tobacco sales through a new license law that charges retailers a fee to sell tobacco products.

This comes after data shows one in three kids are able to buy tobacco or nicotine products in the city, according to local health officials.

The proposed fee would help pay for enforcement efforts.

"We have second graders that are caught with vape products at school. So, it's very concerning that eight-year-olds are using these products," said Joan Seidel, Health Commissioner for Kent City Health Department.

Kent area health officials told News 5 that enough is enough when it comes to the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to children and those under 21 years old.

Wendy Hyde, The Ohio Regional Director for Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, says to stop the problem- frequent compliance checks and a tobacco retail license are essential in the city of Kent.

"A tobacco retail license has a mechanism in place enforced by the local health department that has a graduated penalty fee with the ability to revoke or suspend your retailer's license."

Hyde says the proposed tobacco retail license is largely in response to 30% of retailers in the city getting caught selling to underage smokers.

"A tobacco retail license for the community really enables the community to protect the kids by regulating the sale of tobacco products and putting the onus on the retailers," said Hyde.

If city council green lights the "TRL", all 28 stores in Kent that sell cigarettes, vapes, and other nicotine products must pay a $400 license fee each year.

That cash would then help fund regular compliance checks, undercover enforcement efforts, improved training, and better education for retailers.

"To have a good, healthy, well community, you need to recognize that tobacco and nicotine is the leading killer in the United States," said Hyde.

Council members say the tobacco retail license will not cost taxpayers, and the city of Kent won't be footing the bill either.

It falls directly back onto business owners selling products.

City council is expected to review and likely vote on the proposal Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.