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Berkeley exults over new tobacco laws

Bay City News Service
Friday January 04, 2002

Berkeley officials are crowing over three new state tobacco-control laws, saying they extend at least some of the protection the city already offers to Californians all over the state. 

One of the new measures prohibits self-service cigarette displays, restricts the distribution of free tobacco product samples and bans the sale of smaller cigarette packs and roll-your-own tobacco packages. 

The measure, which went into force on New Year’s Day, also expands compliance checks to telephone, e-mail and Internet sales and at businesses with a record of selling tobacco to minors. 

“California’s children deserve protection from the dangers of tobacco use and the insidious marketing by the manufacturers of America’s No. 1 killer,” Berkeley Health Officer Poki Namkung said in a statement. “Creating an environment where smoking is not considered the norm and enforcing the state’s tough second-hand smoke and youth access laws are key to protecting the health of our children.” 

City officials couldn’t resist a swipe at what they see as a hole in the state law, however.  

An ordinance passed by the Berkeley City Council already prohibits self-service displays of any tobacco product and requires all tobacco sales to be handled by a clerk.  

But, as Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Program Director dryly noted, Berkeley’s ordinance, unlike the new state law, also prohibits self-service sales of cigars. 

A second law bans smoking and discarding cigarette or cigar butts in children’s “tot lot” play areas to protect youngsters from choking, swallowing or burning themselves with smoking debris. 

Again, Berkeley officials couldn’t resist pointing out, Berkeley was already on the case with one of the state’s first such bans a year and a half ago, and Berkeley’s law is tougher in that it is pointedly specific about enforcement and prohibits smoking within 10 feet of tot lot sandy areas. They acknowledge that the state law also prohibits smoking on any school or public playground, however. 

The third law restricts the sale of hand-rolled, filterless cigarettes called “bidis” to businesses that prohibit minors. Bidis are produced in what Berkeley officials term “candy-like” flavors and sold in packs of less than 20, which they say “makes them more tempting and affordable” to young people.