Athens City Council met Monday to discuss two ordinances concerning tobacco retailer licenses, or TRL, and solid waste hauling in the city.
According to a previous Post report, Councilmember Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said Athens has the authority to require tobacco retailers in the city to obtain and maintain a tobacco retailer license as a condition of selling tobacco products.
She said that in Ohio, the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to individuals under the age of 21 is prohibited, but there is little action taken to enforce the law, and by enacting a licensure process, the city could monitor tobacco sales, fund compliance efforts and create effective penalty and suspension structures for repeated violations.
Councilmember Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, said before moving ahead with the ordinance, it might be a good idea to engage directly with business owners who sell tobacco products to work out something that makes the most sense for everyone.
Grace said she believes creating a city licensure system is an appropriate way to address underage smoking as it is the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said while engaging directly with business owners may work in some cases, such as with local bar owners to deal with the overcrowding issue, it may be difficult to get corporate tobacco retailers involved in a conversation to fix the problem.
Patterson said a city licensure system would at least address the inappropriate and illegal sales of tobacco to minors.
“We’re a 21 state; you have to be 21 years of age or older to buy tobacco products, yet we’re seeing it in the hands of individuals that are half that age,” Patterson said.
Law Director Lisa Eliason said she and Grace spoke with the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, and if the ordinance passes as written, Athens would be the only city in Ohio to impose criminal penalties, including community service.
Council also discussed solid waste hauling in the city and the recent decision by Service-Safety Director Andrew Stone to award a bid to Rumpke Waste and Recycling, replacing the current hauler, Athens-Hocking Recycling Center, or AHRC.
Loraine McCosker, an Athens resident, said she is supportive of AHRC and hopes the city will break the contract with Rumpke.
McCosker said for four decades, AHRC has provided recycling and solid waste care to the city with locally provided jobs and a composting project that has been established for over a decade.
She said it is her understanding that Rumpke would be transporting waste to a landfill far away from Athens, which would increase carbon emissions.
McCosker pointed out that although Rumpke offered the lowest bid, according to Ohio Revised Code 153.09, if the lowest bid is not in the best interest of the community, another may be chosen.