Nine stores cited for selling Tobacco to minors after sting
–The San Luis Obispo County Health Agency’s Tobacco Control Program (TCP) in coordination with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office completed countywide tobacco sales compliance check operations beginning in October 2018 and which ended on April 9, 2019.
The enforcement activity utilized underage decoys to regulate illegal sales of tobacco products to minors and resulted in nine businesses selling to a decoy (a 15.5% illegal sales rate) in the unincorporated areas of the county. The illegal sales rate increased from the last series of compliance operations which yielded a 14-percent sales rate. Tobacco compliance monitoring has been continuously in effect since 2012. For comparison purposes, the program’s all-time high illegal sales rate is 25.93% with the low being 5.17%. On June 9, 2016, the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products in California raised from 18 to 21 years of age. The minimum purchase age increase to age 21 has been determined to have minimal impact on the violations that occurred.
The compliance checks focused on unincorporated communities including but not limited to San Miguel, Santa Margarita, Cambria, Cayucos, Los Osos, Avila Beach, Oceano and Nipomo. The incorporated cities within the county did not participate in these sting operations. With the assistance of three local decoys (under age 21), fifty-eight tobacco retailer locations were visited throughout the county resulting in nine clerks illegally selling tobacco to the decoy. It is a misdemeanor to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
The nine stores that engaged in the illegal sale of tobacco products to an under age 21 minor were as follows:
The stores with no prior violations:
1) Dollar General, 972 “K” St, San Miguel
2) Oak Hill Market, 2150 Heritage Loop Dr, Paso Robles
3) Creston Market, 6330 Webster Rd, Creston
Second violation stores were:
4) Ragged Point Inn, 19019 Hwy 1, San Simeon
5) Von’s Gas, 550 W Tefft St, Nipomo
6) Kachi Smoke Shop, 538 W Tefft St, Nipomo
Third violation stores were:
7) San Miguel Market, 1299 Mission St, #2, San Miguel
8) Central Market, 2061 Cienega St, Oceano
The following store sustained their fifth violation:
9) Bob & Jan’s Bottle Shop, 2292 Main St, Cambria
Violation counts are total since 2012.
Additionally, TCP enforcement was taken against one store for failure to pay their fine by using a non-sufficient funds (NSF) check. The NSF payment subsequently resulted in another TCP violation and an expired business license citation.
Retail clerks with tobacco sales violations are issued a notice to appear and criminally prosecuted through Superior Court. By county ordinance, any business responsible for the violation is subject to administrative penalties including suspension of their ability to retail tobacco and a $1000 fine for each offense. First and second offender businesses may elect to participate in a diversion program aimed at reducing licensing suspensions in exchange for onsite employee education and point-of-sale upgrades that use electronic technology to prevent future sales.
The San Luis Obispo County Health Agency’s Tobacco Control Program offers retailer training on how to refuse a sale, methods to identify an underage buyer and instruction on properly reading an identification card or driver’s license. Members of the public or media representatives with questions regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors are encouraged to call the Tobacco Control Program at (805) 781-5540.