For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, Public Information Officer, City of Berkeley, (510) 981-7008

BERKELEY RETAILERS REFUSE TO SELL TOBACCO TO TEENS

Berkeley, California (Thursday, June 07, 2012) - If you want to buy tobacco in Berkeley, you better have identification that shows you're 18 years old or older. In a recent tobacco sting operation, not a single one of the 55 stores tested sold to our youth decoys. The rate at which Berkeley tobacco retailers sell tobacco to minors has fallen from 37 percent in 2002, to 2 percent in 2010, to 0 percent this year.

The youth tobacco purchase survey-- or tobacco sting operation-- tests how well Berkeley's tobacco vendors comply with the California Penal Code 308(a), which prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors. During the sting, trained 16-year-old youth decoys attempt to purchase a tobacco product while an undercover police officer watches. If the merchant sells the tobacco product, the salesperson receives a $200 citation.

The significant reduction in sales to minors is partially attributed to Berkeley's tobacco retail permit law (Berkeley Municipal Code 9.80), which went into effect in 2003. Tobacco retailers must pay a $498 annual fee for a permit, which can be suspended for 30 days or longer each time a tobacco control violation occurs.

These results also demonstrate a substantial collaboration between the Public Health Division, the Police Department, the Environmental Health Division and Berkeley High School students.

"Reaching zero sales to minors is a real milestone in our tobacco control efforts," said Health Officer Janet Berreman, M.D. "Smoking habits are established in the teen years, so reducing youth access to tobacco is critical to preventing heart disease, strokes, cancer, and tobacco-related health inequities. Thank you to the Berkeley merchants who are doing the right thing by asking for identification and saying 'No' to teen buyers."

Funders for the collaborative youth tobacco purchase survey program include the Berkeley Police Department, tobacco retailer permit 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.

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