Hundreds of convenience stores and thousands of employees throughout the Bay Area are being threatened by legislation that would ban the sale of certain tobacco products.


“As an immigrant and business owner, I am deeply concerned by this attack on convenience stores and retailers like me. I am just a local, small business owner trying to achieve the American Dream here in California,” said Sanjiv Patel, a convenience store owner in Oakland.


The counties of Contra Costa and San Francisco as well as the cities of Oakland, San Leandro and Los Gatoshave introduced overreaching ordinances that single out family- and minority-owned businesses in an effort to score political points.


“Convenience store owners operate on slim margins and rely on high-volume foot traffic. Tobacco ban ordinances would force the closure of hundreds of locations throughout the Bay Area and put thousands of people out of work,” said Dee Dhaliwal, a convenience store owner in the Bay Area.


Despite claims by organizations that advocate the local bans, new restrictions on convenience stores would not impact the sale of tobacco to minors.


California restricts the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 and imposes heavy fines on retailers that violate the law. Furthermore, a 2016 study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that the vast majority of youth under the age of 17 obtain tobacco products from “social sources,” including older friends, adult siblings and parents.


“California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA) members operate in accordance to the law and often stage their own internal sting operations to ensure that their employees are not selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21,” said Ryan Hanretty, Executive Director at CIOMA. “Local ordinances proposed in several Bay Area cities and counties aren’t about protecting youth from tobacco products, they are about scoring headlines and political points at the expense of family- and minority-owned businesses that serve their local communities.”


CIOMA represents about one-quarter of the state’s 14,000 service stations—of that, total about 9,500 (over two-thirds) are single-store owners.