General Store Co-op Stops Selling Tobacco

Gstore Gene Horecka

The change comes in response to a cease and desist letter the co-op received in October

UCSD’s General Store can no longer sell tobacco after recieving a cease and desist letter on Oct. 4 as a result of the University of California-wide tobacco ban instituted on Sept. 1.

The facility — located in the Student Center — was previously the only place on campus where students could buy cigarettes.

Co-op manager Wesley Jones, who used to manage the cigarettes and tobacco products the General Store sold, said that the cease and desist letter from University Centers came as a surprise.

“Most of the frustration is that it kicked in at the beginning of the year and we thought it wouldn’t be enforced until 2014,” Jones said. “It would have been a more gradual change for us, and now we’re all on our toes about everything.”

Originally, the ban was going to be implemented on Jan. 1 of 2014 with the rest of the UCs (other than UCLA), leading to the confusion about the start date of the ban. University Centers met with the General Store last April to make the store aware of the ban and to encourage the employees to consider other products.

“The General Store indicated they were aware and had already been discussing other products,” University Centers Director Sharon Van Bruggen said. “The notice was sent on Oct. 4 in response to a complaint University Centers received about the ongoing sale of cigarettes at the General Store.”

Although the store has abided by the ban since then, employees have heard rumors of RSOs sending students undercover to check in on the business.

“It looks bad on their part that they’re trying to catch us in the act just because we are a student-run org even though we are complying with their wishes,” Jones said. “Whether or not they are spying on us, we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. It’s good that we’re keeping up this relationship with the school; changes have to happen.”

This change is immense for the General Store, as tobacco sales previously accounted for roughly 50 percent of the business’s total revenue. However, the store has been faring surprisingly well under the circumstances largely due to steady book sales.

“We have high customer loyalty,” Jones said. “Everyone was just excited to have cigarettes sold on campus, and not badly priced at that, so they still come in here.”

Although the customers remain loyal, the General Store is concerned with how it can best serve the previous tobacco-buying customers, about 50 percent of who were faculty members while many others were international students. Currently, the General Store is focused on maintaining a lively atmosphere to keep disheartened customers distracted.

However, members of the General Store noted that serving these customers in the long run has proven more difficult because the ban forbids the sale of e-cigarettes, nicotine liquids, nicotine-free liquids, nicotine patches, or anything considered “tobacco paraphernalia,” even if the product is designed to help smokers quit.

“We’re trying to get alternatives for those people because they’re our main customers,” Jones said. “There are no real suggestions yet but we have big things coming. Even though the store’s pretty small, it’s bigger than it looks.”

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