Released: November 22, 2017 - Wednesday, 11:32 AM

Tobacco Sting

Contact: Tony CipollaPhone: (805) 781-4547Date and time of incident: N/APlace of Occurrence: Unincorporated Area of San Luis Obispo CountyVictim Information: N/ASuspect Information: N/ATOBACCO STING CONDUCTED IN SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY – SEVEN STORES CAUGHT SELLING TO MINORS RESULTING IN SALES RATE DECREASE – 2ND VIOLATION FOR THREE STORES, 3RD VIOLATION FOR ONE STORE, 4TH VIOLATION FOR TWO STORES; 14% ILLEGAL SALES RATE

The San Luis Obispo County Health Agency’s Tobacco Control Program in coordination with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office completed countywide tobacco sales compliance check operations beginning in July and which ended on November 9, 2017. The enforcement activity utilized underage decoys to regulate illegal sales of tobacco products to minors and resulted in seven businesses selling to a decoy (a 14% illegal sales rate) in the unincorporated areas of the county. The illegal sales rate decreased from the last series of compliance operations which yielded a 20.83% 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 21 has been determined to have no 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 two (2) local decoys (under age 21), fifty (50) tobacco retailer locations were visited throughout the county resulting in seven (7) clerks illegally selling tobacco to the decoy. Under Penal Code § 308, it is a misdemeanor to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

The seven (7) stores that engaged in the illegal sale of tobacco products to an under age 21 minor were as follows: A store with no prior violations: 1) Valley Liquor, 2199 10th St, Los Osos. Second violation stores were: 2) Johnson’s Market, 1262 Pacific Blvd, Oceano; 3) Cayucos Liquor, 75 S. Ocean Blvd, Cayucos; 4) Cookie Crock Market, 1240 Knollwood Dr, Cambria. A third violation store was: 5) Mesa View Market, 610 Mesa View Dr., Arroyo Grande. The following stores sustained their fourth violation: 6) La Placita Market, 515 Orchard Rd, Nipomo; 7) Bob & Jan’s Bottle Shop, 2292 Main St, Cambria.

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 with questions regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors are encouraged to call the Tobacco Control Program at (805) 781-5564.