After much research, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow gas stations to be exempt from the City ordinance that states that retail operations that sell tobacco must be located 1,000 feet or farther from sensitive, youth-oriented institutions such as religious institutions, parks, playgrounds, schools, libraries, recreation centers or other youth-oriented institutions.
The move came, in part, after that the ordinance - set just two years ago in January of 2010 - was eating up 15 to 20 percent of his business, as smokers did not want to bother filling up their tanks at gas stations that do not sell cigarettes. Patel's business is located just 400 feet from the
Patel's Shell station was the only gas station in Union City not allowed to sell tobacco, as he just took over ownership recently. Other gas stations within the 1,000-foot buffer zones were grandfathered in and are allowed to continue selling tobacco products.
Likewise, Patel argued that his business is located just down the street from a liquor store and tobacco store, and therefore the ordinance was putting his business at "an unfair disadvantage."
Health officials and members of the community are not happy about the idea, though. The Alameda County Public Health Department is one of them, stating at a February City Council meeting that tobacco-related deaths amount to the number one killer of people in Union City. Members of the Tri-City church also expressed concerns at that meeting, that profits are being put above the health and well-being of children, and that allowing businesses to sell inside of the buffer zones are making it too easy for tobacco products to end up in the hands of children.
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, members voted to introduce the amendment to the City's ordinance, exempting gas stations from the buffer zone restrictions. A second reading of the amendment to the ordinance is expected at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for May 22.
Patch wants to know - what do you think? Do you think allowing gas stations to sell tobacco within 1,000 feet or less of a "youth-oriented institution" such as a church is a bad idea? Or do you think Patel was indeed being put at an unfair disadvantage, as the only gas station in Union City not allowed to sell cigarettes?
Vote in our poll below, and tell us how you feel in the comments.