Proposed ordinance could close most smoke shops in Fresno

Tiffany Olin Image
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Proposed ordinance could close most smoke shops in Fresno
Over the past few years, several Fresno City Council members have been working on a new ordinance to crack down on unregulated smoke shops across the city.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Over the past few years, several Fresno city council members have been working on a new ordinance to crack down on unregulated smoke shops across the city.

According to Fresno city councilmember Miguel Arias who represents District 3, there are hundreds of unregulated smoke shops operating in the city.

He believes smoke shops contribute to crime and blight in Fresno, and is hopeful this ordinance will improve the health and safety of the city.

"The public health and public safety threat in our neighborhoods is rapid with the rapid increase of smoke shops in the city of Fresno," Arias said. "In three years, these unregulated retail storefronts grew by 900% just in District 3 alone."

According to Arias, some smoke shops have been operating through a loophole that allows the shops to operate as grocery stores.

Arias and other members of the city council have spent the last few years visiting smoke shops to see what each is selling and how they are operating.

"They sell everything from significant drug paraphernalia, pipes to e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco-- all of which is already outlawed in the state of California," Arias said.

Arias claims the number of smoke shops in Fresno has grown while the consumption of tobacco has continued to decline.

"Our goal here is to reduce the smoke shops in our city by 70% by applying the same rules that we apply to retail shops that sell controlled substances," Arias explained.

"I will not surrender one more neighborhood corner to these types of businesses," Council Vice President Annalisa Perea said.

If the ordinance goes into place, it would only allow two smoke shops per district, which would reduce the number to 14 total in Fresno.

Some of the regulations that smoke shops will have to abide by if the ordinance is passed include a conditional use permit, city tobacco retail license, annual inspections, revised hours, no admission to anyone under 21 and no outdoor ads.

Smoke shops could face a $1,000 fine for some violations.

"December last year, they said no vape, no nothing so we take off everything so we're losing a lot of money, sales going down, and whatever they said, we followed their rules," owner of a local smoke shop, Surjid Singh said.

Singh has owned A-1 Smoke Shop Store in central Fresno since 2012.

He thinks the city should have limited the business licenses from the start, rather than close down shops like his.

"If they're going to shut down my business, we're going to have a hard time, very hard time. All my family," Singh said. "How are we going to pay the bill? How are we going to survive? My kids go to school. They need clothes, everything. What are we going to do after this?"

The ordinance could be brought to the council for discussion as early as November 16th if it gets through the district implementation and planning commission meetings on time.

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