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County aims for tobacco compliance
Sales to minors have decreased statewide
Tobacco sales to minors statewide have decreased according to the California Department of Public Health, as the state entity reports drops in illegal sales from 13.2 percent in 2006 to 5.6 percent in 2011.
However, the Tulare County Health and Human Services’ Tobacco Awareness and Education Program’s aim is for all tobacco retailers in Porterville and all of Tulare County to be in full compliance with state and federal law that prohibits tobacco sales to minors by this spring.
“Preventing youth from purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products illegally is an important goal of our program. Most tobacco use begins during adolescence, which is why it is so important that we continue to educate retailers and do our part to prevent minors from purchasing tobacco,” said Danette Franz with TCTAEP. In order to ensure this goal, TCTAEP is continuing to provide educational and outreach materials as well as compliance checks on tobacco retailers. They also provide signs for retailers to post.
According to the CDPH, in 2011 9.8 percent of non-traditional stores sold tobacco illegally versus 4.8 percent of traditional tobacco stores. To sell tobacco products in California a retailer must obtain a license from the State Board of Equalization.
At Smoker’s Paradise, owner Ismail Mohammed, who has been in business for nine years, cards his customers and has signs posted which read “We Card” and “If you buy tobacco for minors it can cost you.” He also has a sign from the State Board of Equalization which gives a number for someone to call if they see an infraction of the law. Over the last year, he has had three incidences of kids trying to buy tobacco illegally.
“Mostly when there’s no school and there’s free time on they’re hands, that’s when I see kids come in,” said Mohammed.
If a minor tries to buy tobacco, Mohammed said he refuses to sell to them.
“If I know somebody’s parents, I’ll call them and let them know what’s going on, but I wouldn’t call the cops,” Mohammed said.
Jose Elizondo, the owner of the Chevron gas station on D Street, said he hasn’t had minors try to buy products illegally. In his store he also has signs, asks for ID and receives some extra help.
“We get all this training from the state. They’re asking us to card up to 27,” said Elizondo.
Under the provisions of the state’s Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, or STAKE, signed into law in September of last year, the fines for selling tobacco products to minors can range from $400 to $6,000, depending upon the number of previous violations. If there are five or more violations at the same location within a five-year period, a retailer’s license can be revoked.
For more information on the law visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov and for more information on TCTAEP visit http://www.tularehhsa.org.
Contact Emily Shapiro at 784-5000, ext. 1050, or on Twitter @EmilyShapirogar.