Governor issues order to stop illegal tobacco sales to minors
SACRAMENTO - An increase in tobacco sales to minors could threaten federal funds to California that are used for drug and alcohol treatment programs, state officials said Tuesday.
In response to the increase in illegal tobacco sales, Gov. Gray Davis issued an executive order Tuesday that aims to crack down on stores that sell tobacco products to minors.
Davis' executive order doubles the amount of money spent on an anti-tobacco public education campaign, allotting $4 million of federal funds, and orders Alcohol Beverage Control officials to monitor whether stores are posting warning signs aimed at minors.
"Since the majority of liquor licensees also sell cigarettes, it is appropriate for our department to help prevent the unhealthy use of tobacco by minors," said Jerry R. Jolly, acting director of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
A 2003 survey of randomly selected retailers found that 19.3 percent of stores sold tobacco to youth decoys, said April Roeseler, chief of local programs and evaluations for DHS. In 2000, the survey found 12.8 percent of stores sold tobacco to the decoys.
The state needs to keep that figure below 20 percent, said Lisa Fisher, spokeswoman for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, or it could lose $2.5 million for each percentage point above that target.
While health officials say the number of teens who smoke is dropping, it is easier for those that do to find a store to sell to them, Roeseler said. There are more nontraditional retailers - such as doughnut shops, gift shops and dollar stores - that are now selling tobacco products, she said.
Davis also directed the DHS to pursue bills that would increase the penalties for merchants who sell tobacco to minors.