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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Marcia Brown-Machen, Health and Human Services, (510) 981-5309

Tobacco Retail Licensure Law credited as motivation to stop selling to kids

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, July 12, 2006) - The results of a recent survey show that most Berkeley tobacco merchants are doing their part to keep tobacco away from kids. The City of Berkeley Police Department and the Department of Health and Human Services collaborated with youth to conduct a tobacco purchase survey, visiting 34 tobacco retailers to test compliance with a state law prohibiting tobacco sales to minors under 18 years old. 

During the survey, a 15 or 16 year old attempted to purchase a tobacco product while an undercover police officer was in the store, observing. If the merchant sold the tobacco product, the officer cited the salesperson under Penal Code 308(a). Only two stores out of 34 visited (5.8%) sold tobacco to minors. This compares to a 14% rate measured in 2004 and a 36% - 38% rate measured in both 1996 and 2002. Dr. Linda Rudolph, Berkeley’s Health Officer, said, “We believe that this dramatic, 84% drop in illegal tobacco sales is directly related to the initiation of Berkeley’s Tobacco Retail Licensure Law in 2003.”

Under the tobacco retail licensure law, Berkeley’s retailers must pay an annual fee of approximately $325 each year in order to receive a license to sell tobacco. If retailers violate a tobacco control law, depending on the nature of the violation, they may be required to remove tobacco for sale in their stores for progressively longer periods and may lose the right to obtain a tobacco license if they have four violations in five years. The Tobacco Retail Licensure Law is administered and enforced by the Health and Human Services Department, Environmental Health Division.

Every day 240 Californians will die from tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable premature death in the United States. More than 280 California teenagers become regular smokers each day. It is still far too easy for children under 18 throughout the USA to find a store willing to break the law and sell them cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. The City's Tobacco Retail Licensure Law and the tobacco purchase surveys  will help protect  youth from starting a lifetime addiction and deadly habit.   

This program is funded by: the Berkeley Police Department; tobacco retailer licensure fees; California’s quarter a pack tax on tobacco from the California Department of Health Services; and the Alameda County Tobacco Control Program, through the Alameda County Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds.

For additional information contact Marcia Brown-Machen, Program Director, Tobacco Prevention Program at (510) 981-5309.



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