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Manteca may allow hookah lounges, other tobacco uses

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POSTED May 25, 2014 11:55 p.m.

The city that led the drive in California in the 1970s to ban the sale of cigarettes from vending machines accessible to children may now make hookah lounges legal.

The Manteca Planning Commission on Tuesday is considering a municipal code amendment that would accommodate the centuries old communal smoking of flavored tobacco practice in specific zones.

The amendment also would allow any lounge or seating area where patrons smoke tobacco or non-tobacco related products such as cigars, cigarettes, pipes, e-cigarettes or other smoking devices.

The city code change is in response from a request by Jimmy Nagi who wants to open an outdoor hookah lounge in conjunction with his restaurant at 1800 West Yosemite Avenue across from the Kaiser Hospital.

Without the amendment such a use would be illegal under state law that precludes any uses not specifically listed for various zones in municipal ordinances.

The city has prepared a negative declaration which means that city staff has determined allow hookah lounges and such will not impact the environment. The environmental review covers 18 general categories including air quality plus hazards and hazardous materials.

Under the proposed amendment, hookah lounges and other smoking establishments will be allowed in general commercial and commercial mixed use zones.

Some 40 years ago, Manteca was the first California city and one of the initial in the nation to ban the sale of cigarettes from vending machines where they could be accessed by teens or children.

The campaign was initiated by the late Trena Kelley who eventually went on to become Manteca’s first directly elected mayor as well as the first woman ever to serve either on the city council or as mayor.

The drive was triggered by parents angry that youth — some as young as 10 — had been buying cigarettes from a vending machine in a restaurant lobby while walking home from Lincoln School and Manteca High.

The Manteca ordinance restricted vending machines selling cigarettes to adult establishments only such as bars. Eventually the state outlawed selling cigarettes from vending machines anywhere.

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

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