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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Marcia Brown-Machen, MPH, Tobacco Prevention Program Director, (510) 981-5309

Stores risk losing their right to sell tobacco

Berkeley, California (Friday, July 20, 2007) - In a recent test of how well Berkeley’s tobacco vendors comply with the California law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, PC 308(a), nearly 20 percent of them sold tobacco products to a youth decoy. This is more than three times the rate of sales in April 2006.
The City of Berkeley Police Department and Public Health Department conducted the youth-purchase surveys, during which 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.

Relevant stats:

In June, 2007, 18.75 percent of Berkeley tobacco retailers sold tobacco to a youth decoy.
In April 2006, only 2 stores out of 34 surveyed (5.8 percent) sold tobacco to minors.
Between 1996 and 2002, the rate was consistently between 36 and 38 percent.
“The Tobacco Retail Licensure Law, passed in 2003, initially helped bring down the illegal tobacco sales to minors, but it appears that Berkeley’s tobacco retailers are not adequately training new clerks to ask for ID of everyone who looks under 27,” said Health Officer, Dr. Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH. “ Tobacco kills, and it is unacceptable that nearly 20 percent of surveyed tobacco merchants sold tobacco to a 16 year old.”

Under the tobacco retail licensure law, Berkeley’s retailers pay an annual license fee of approximately $380 each year. If retailers violate a tobacco control law, they may be required to remove tobacco from their stores for up to 30 days the first time and for longer periods for additional offences. They may also lose the right to obtain a tobacco license if they have four violations in five years. The tobacco retail licensure law (BMC Title 9.80) is administered and enforced by the Health and Human Services Department, Environmental Health Division.

Funders for the collaborative youth tobacco purchase survey program include 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 more information, contact Marcia Brown-Machen, MPH, Tobacco Prevention Program Director at 510- 981-5309 or mbrown-machen@ci.berkeley.ca.us.


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