Advertisement
Share

Smoke shop in La Jolla raises alarm with some residents due to proximity to schools

La Jolla Tobacco Co. is near the corner of Torrey Pines Road and Girard Avenue in The Village.
La Jolla Tobacco Co. is near the corner of Torrey Pines Road and Girard Avenue in The Village.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The city of San Diego says there are no municipal code sections that specify a minimum distance a tobacco retailer must be from a school.

A new tobacco store in La Jolla is raising concerns among some residents due to its proximity to local schools.

The La Jolla Tobacco Co. smoke shop is at 7553 Girard Ave., near the corner of Torrey Pines Road. That places it less than a mile from Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High schools and less than a half-mile from Gillispie and La Jolla Elementary schools. The shop opened in October and sells cigarettes, vape cartridges and supplies, tobacco, CBD products, cigars, snacks, candles, incense and more.

Local parent Tami Assaf said she was shocked when La Jolla Tobacco Co. opened and is worried for her 17-year-old daughter, who walks past it to go to school.

“To have a smoke shop, something that is very much an adult thing, be so visible to children seems so inappropriate for The Village,” Assaf said. “So many of us live in The Village and drive by it every day, and there are those that walk to the high school that see it every day.”

Reader Carol Rogers contacted the La Jolla Light wondering “how on Earth has a smoke shop opened within walking distance of several elementary schools? It’s across the street from Dunkin [doughnut shop]. What message is La Jolla trying to send?”

La Jolla Elementary School Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink said she hasn’t received comments from parents about the shop.

La Jolla Tobacco Co. management could not be reached for comment.

The entryway to La Jolla Tobacco Co.'s Girard Avenue store
The entryway to La Jolla Tobacco Co.'s Girard Avenue store displays drinks, candy, incense and other supplies. Tobacco and CBD products are sold further into the store.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“Tobacco retailers are a police-regulated industry,” according to city of San Diego spokeswoman Racquel Vasquez. Thus, in addition to a city business tax certificate, other licenses and fees are required and the owner must submit what is known as a police permit application.

Ashley Bailey, another city spokeswoman, said La Jolla Tobacco Co. “has a current and valid police permit” and that there are no San Diego municipal code sections that specify a minimum distance a tobacco retailer must be from a school.

“Applicants are required to submit a current state tobacco retailer license prior to the issuance of a city police permit,” Bailey said. “We were unable to locate any state regulation that dictates minimum distances, but if the state has already approved and issued a license, any minimum distance requirements have probably already been met.”

To mitigate potential impacts for underage pedestrians, Assaf said she would like to see the sign for La Jolla Tobacco be “less eye-catching” and its contents better hidden.

“There are liquor stores in the area that have more tasteful signage, and I was surprised to see banners and other blaring signage out front [of La Jolla Tobacco],” she said. She suggested shrubs or curtains to mask the frontage.

The front of the store features signage reading “smoke shop” but no signs that spell out restrictions for people younger than 21. As of December 2019, the federal age for legal sale of tobacco products is 21.

“This is an issue for all ages,” said Assaf, who added that it can be an opportunity for families to talk about smoking and vaping. “This can open up a lot of conversations between parents and their children.” ◆