Smoke Signals: Placerville’s Urgency Ordinance and the Future of Tobacco Regulation

On April 23rd, the City Council of Placerville, California, unanimously approved an extension of a temporary urgency ordinance that imposes a moratorium on establishing new tobacco retail businesses within the city limits.

Placerville, a community of approximately 11,000 residents, within the greater Sacramento area, initiated this moratorium last year following observations by city and county officials of a 36% increase in the number of tobacco retailers countywide since 2020. During presentations to the board and council, representatives from the county’s Department of Public Health highlighted the growing concern over the national increase in adolescent usage of tobacco products.

An examination of the rationale behind this moratorium reveals that the intent is to target mass-market tobacco product outlets that sell flavored tobacco products, vaping devices, and electronic nicotine delivery systems. However, the ordinance’s wording is vague and represents an overreach by tobacco control advocates, signaling a potential precursor to more extensive regulatory measures.

The history of tobacco regulation in the United States underscores the rapidity with which local ordinances can evolve into widespread national policies. For instance, Aspen, Colorado, implemented the first city-level indoor smoking ban in restaurants in 1987. This was closely followed by San Luis Obispo, California, extending a ban to all public buildings in 1990. By 2000, similar bans had proliferated across the country, illustrating the swift national adoption of such regulations.

More recently, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the City of Brookline’s Generational Tobacco Ban, a measure that has since inspired similar actions throughout the Greater Boston area. 

Placerville and Massachusetts’s radical regulations not only restrict new premium cigar shops but also impose broader generational premium cigar access, sparking significant debates about personal freedoms and the extent of local government power.

Going forward, the potential nationwide adoption of such stringent tobacco control measures poses significant challenges for the premium cigar industry, necessitating proactive engagement. Premium cigar advocates must now prioritize dialogue with policymakers, enhance public education efforts to inform the public about the industry’s cultural heritage and responsible consumption, and develop strategic legal defenses to protect the industry in the future. 

As Placerville and Massachusett lead with these new policies, they are unlikely to be the only localities and even states to adopt such stringent tobacco control measures. For the premium cigar industry and its advocates, the time to mobilize is now, as these policies could have far-reaching implications for the future of the enjoyment of premium cigars in the United States.

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Cody Carden

The Protect Cigar Freedom Plan
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