Boise repeals tobacco ordinances at Tuesday’s council meeting. Why?

·3 min read
Jenny Kane/AP Photo

Soon, residents may not see signs posted about underage smoking outside tobacco shops. And businesses that primarily sell tobacco will be allowed to stay open between 2 and 6 a.m.

The city of Boise has gotten rid of ordinances restricting tobacco use following the passage of a bill by the Idaho Legislature this year that prohibits cities from having stricter rules than the state does.

The new state law, which passed the Legislature in March, says that “no local unit of government may adopt or enforce requirements” for tobacco and electronic smoking that are “more restrictive” than what state law requires. The law went into effect July 1.

Boise has numerous provisions regulating tobacco. Stores must post signs that say “Admittance of persons under the age of eighteen (18) years is prohibited by law,” according to the city code.

Such businesses are also required to put up physical barriers to smoking areas, and to have signs that say “Minors are prohibited from loitering within ten feet (10’) of this smoking area.”

Minors who buy or possess tobacco are guilty of misdemeanors, while those who sell or distribute tobacco to minors are guilty of the same.

How is state law different?

Under state law, minors who purchase or possess tobacco are not guilty of misdemeanors but of infractions. The punishment is a fine of $17.50.

Minors who sell or distribute tobacco, or those who falsely identify themselves as of age, are subject to $200 fines for a first offense, and a misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.

Businesses that sell tobacco are also required to obtain a permit from the Department of Health and Welfare, and under state code tobacco businesses “may” post signs noting that minors are prohibited from entering.

Why did the bill pass?

By providing for regularity in requirements, the state legislation is a benefit to retailers, said Suzanne Budge, executive director of the Idaho Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

“There was quite a big group of associations and retailers throughout the state that supported uniformity as it relates to tobacco regulation,” Budge said. She said that retailers want to comply with federal and state laws, and that differing local regulations can make that more difficult.

Convenience stores perform the bulk of tobacco sales in the state, Budge said, adding that she thinks the uniformity will help stores better train their workforce and will make it easier for the stores to avoid selling tobacco to minors.

The Boise City Council on Tuesday repealed provisions that are more stringent than or duplicate state law.

A memorandum included in the council’s meeting-agenda packet said repeal would save the city money.

The memo said the city pays “per word” to have its code maintained by the American Legal Publishing Corp., and the city “pays for the jail costs of criminal suspects arrested under the City Code.”

“The simpler and more cost-effective course of action is to repeal these city code provisions and rely on the state code for regulation,” the memo said.