Tobacco sting catches 12 businesses selling to minors
The San Luis Obispo County Health Agency’s Tobacco Control Program in coordination with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office completed a recent countywide tobacco sales compliance check operation which ended on March 24. The enforcement activity utilized underage decoys to regulate illegal sales of tobacco products to minors and resulted in twelve businesses selling to a decoy, a 22.64 percent illegal sales rate, in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The illegal sales rate increased from the last series of compliance operations, increasing from 14.29 percent to 22.64 percent in the latest round of monitoring.
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 teen decoys, all under the age of 18, 53 tobacco retailer locations were visited throughout the county. Twelve clerks of the 53 retailers illegally sold tobacco to the decoy, accounting for the 22.64 percent sales rate. Under Penal Code 308(a), it is a misdemeanor to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.
The stores that engaged in the illegal sale of tobacco products to a minor with no prior violations were:
• Kachi Tobacco, 538 Tefft Street, Nipomo
• Los Berros Market, 2012 Los Berros Rd, Arroyo Grande
• Los Osos Liquor, 2004 10th Street, Los Osos
• Margarita Plaza Liquor, 22350 El Camino Real, Santa Margarita
• Shandon Market, 240 East Centre Street, Shandon
The following stores sustained their second violation:
• A-1 Liquors, 105 South Main Street, Templeton
• Cambria Chevron, 2194 Main Street, Cambria
• Central Market, 2061 Cienega Street, Oceano
• Old Cambria Marketplace, 589 Main Street, Cambria
The following stores sustained their third violation:
• La Placita Market, 515 Orchard Avenue, Nipomo
• Santa Margarita Mercantile, 22304 “G” Street, Santa Margarita.
The following store sustained their fourth violation:
• Mission Market & Deli, 1402 Mission Street, San Miguel.
Retail clerks with tobacco sales violations are issued a Notice to Appear and criminally prosecuted through Superior Court. By county ordinance, any business in violation is subject to an administrative hearing with penalties to include suspension of their ability to retail tobacco and a $1,000 fine for each offense. First and second offender business may elect to participate in a diversion program aimed at onsite education for employees and point-of-sale upgrades that use technology to prevent future sales.
The 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 with questions regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors are encouraged to call the program at (805) 781-5564.