Retailers who carry any type of tobacco product in the city of Riverside must obtain a new permit by Aug. 31 if they want to continue selling cigarettes and similar items, authorities said Wednesday.

Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said some business owners may not be aware of the amended municipal code requiring a “tobacco retail establishment permit” for distribution of tobacco products, as well as vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes.

“This new permit is in addition to the state retailer’s license and seller’s permit already issued to local businesses,” Railsback said.

On March 23, the Riverside City Council adopted amendments to its prior tobacco ordinance, No. 6.24, implemented in 2006.

The revised ordinance mandates that the 243 licensed tobacco sellers throughout the city obtain the tobacco retail establishment permit to continue stocking and selling tobacco and vaping products.

The new regulations dovetail with all provisions of Senate Bill 7, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.

The law states that no tobacco or e-cigarettes will be marketed or sold to anyone under 21 years old, with the exception of active duty military personnel, who can buy at age 18 and over.

Misdemeanor charges can be filed, and civil and criminal penalties assessed for violations.

The city ordinance specifies that any business that generates 60% or more in gross annual receipts from tobacco sales must stop selling between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., which directly impacts hookah bars. It also establishes escalating penalties for repeat offenses that occur within a 60-month period, including permit revocation, and outlines the appeals process for those entities that are fined.

Under the ordinance, the Riverside Police Department will serve as the primary enforcement agent, instead of the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

According to the city, between May 2019 and January 2021, vice squad operations netted 34 tobacco retailers who sold or furnished tobacco products to residents under 21.

More information about the permits is available at riversideca.gov/rpd/resources-forms/how-do-i/file-permit.

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