San Marcos’ tobacco licensing requirements official; goes into effect Jan. 1

SAN MARCOS — Tobacco retailers operating in San Marcos received applications for the city’s recently adopted license that is required for them to continue operating in the city.

The city sent out the applications earlier this month, and retailers have until Dec. 31 to return them and pay the $190 license fee.

San Marcos in July followed in the footsteps of Vista, El Cajon and other cities statewide that have adopted such license requirements, which provide incentives for business that follow the rules and harsh penalties for scofflaw businesses.

San Marcos has 60 businesses that sell tobacco and e-Cigarette products.

The license fee helps defray the cost of compliance checks by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, which officials said are critical to ensuring that retailers are not selling or advertising their products to minors.

The penalties for failing the inspections — which could temporarily or permanently ban a store from selling such products — have been a major deterrent, as tobacco sales account for nearly one-third of most convenience stores’ revenue.

In the second year of the program, establishments can get reductions based on a clean compliance check and other anti-tobacco measures, such as a magnetic stripe reader to verify the age of buyers, regular staff training and no tobacco advertising.

All told, stores can cut the cost of the license by $60.

Conversely, violations found in the annual compliance review can result in punishments ranging from warnings to suspension and ultimately revocation of the license.

The first violation with a three-year period results in a warning and a requirement to train employees within 60 days. The second violation results in an up-to 30-day suspension; a third violation would result in a 90-day suspension; a fourth violation would result in a yearlong suspension, and a fifth suspension could result in revocation.

Violators can appeal the rulings to an independent hearing officer, according to the ordinance.

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