Electronic smoking devices: Sign

A new decision by Selma’s City Council treats electronic smoking devices with the same restrictions as those containing tobacco. The council also approved strict guidelines on the sale of such products and the location of smoke shops and hookah lounges.

An effort to curb smoking among youth is now in place after the Selma City Council approved a new rule at its March 14 meeting that treat electronic smoking devices the same as actual tobacco.

The decision may be the first in the state. After the council unanimously approved the new law, City Councilwoman Yvette Montijo inquired whether Selma is the first in California to do so.

City Attorney Neal Costanzo said Selma is most likely the first city in the state to enact laws that impose the same restrictions on the electronic devices, such as e-cigarettes, as are required of tobacco products.

“I’m sure you’re the first to have one for the electronic smoking devices,” Costanzo said.

The new rules come as state lawmakers passed legislation last week raising the smoking age to 21. Gov. Jerry Brown still has to sign the legislation.

In making the decision, the council cited health concerns for youth.

“It’s essentially making those products subject to the same restrictions applicable to tobacco products and the smoking of tobacco products,” City Manager Ken Grey said in a report to the council.

The new rules makes the smoking of electronic devices and paraphernalia “on par with tobacco products,” the report states. Thus, electronic smoking devices are restricted from any place designated as smoke free by state law.

“You have to adhere to the state law that relates to the sale of these products as if they were cigarettes or cigars,” said City Attorney Neal Costanzo. “You can’t have a self-service display, for example.”

E-cigarettes are thus banned in Selma from all places of employment and public places such as bars, restaurants, clubs, stores, stadiums, parks, playgrounds, taxis and buses. The sale of such devices is also restricted to anyone under age 18.

“My suspicion is the governor is likely to sign this bill,” Costanzo said. If that does occur, [the] council will amend the city’s law.”

In April 2015, the council first approved a halt to any new cigar or hookah lounges, tobacco stores and the sales of vapor, e-cigarette, tobacco or smoking paraphernalia in the city. That initial decision affected businesses that had 10 or more square feet of its floor space dedicated to the sale or display of such products.

The city wanted to look into how having such businesses affect public health, safety and welfare and then create laws regarding them.

“The sale and smoking of tobacco is heavily regulated by the state, however electronic smoking devices and paraphernalia are not,” Grey’s report said.

A second new law was also unanimously approved at the meeting that severely limits where smoke shops and smoking lounges can set up shop. Anyone looking to open up a new shop of this sort would have to get a conditional-use permit from the city.

“It’s got to be located 600 feet away from any residential zone, public or private daycare, kindergarten, elementary school, library, church or apartment. It can only be located in two areas in the city,” Costanzo said.

Employees have to be 21 and over and security cameras would need to be installed so video could be made available to city police in case of any incidents.

“They have to comply with our sign ordinance that limits that the total amount of space covering doors and windows. You have to be able to see the cash register,” Costanzo said.

In other matters, a new lease agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County was approved to be established at the Salazar Center. The council also approved renewing an ongoing lease with the Serving and Mobilizing Assistance, Resources and Training (SMART) Center.

Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Kenneth Quenzer said he’s pleased that the effort has now been approved.

“It looks like we’re on the fast track. We appreciate that. We’re always opened to serving more kids, especially those that need us most. It seems the Salazar Center is the ideal place to make that happen,” he said.

Quenzer said that after staff is hired and some painting and building maintenance is completed, the program will begin within a month.

Mayor Scott Robertson said that since funding for the programs comes from the Selma Healtcare District, it will not cost the city to run the program.

The Salazar Center currently houses an after-school program, domestic violence support, worship and a food distribution program through the SMART Center.

The two agencies will coordinate their activities at the center, which is at 1800 Sheridan St.

A joint powers agreement between Selma and Fresno County was also approved at the meeting that forms the North Selma Sewer Finance Authority Facilities District. The agreement enables the city to finance and install a lateral trunk sewer line running in and along Dinuba Avenue. This allows for development of that part of the city by connecting it to the Selma-Kingsburg-Fowler County Sanitation District (SKF). The project involves the issuing of limited obligation improvement bonds to pay for the installation of the lateral trunk line.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com

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