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Tobacco sales to minors reach new low in state

County office of education brings anti-smoking message to students

POSTED September 23, 2011 10:10 p.m.

As the Stanislaus County Office of Education prepares for its seventh annual “Tobacco Slam” event, the California Department of Health is reporting some good news about youth and smoking.

Illegal tobacco sales to minors have fallen to their lowest level on record in the state, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, announced Thursday. The 2011 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey found that tobacco sales to minors at retail outlets occurred at a rate of 5.6 percent – the lowest rate in the survey’s 16-year history.

“It is important to protect our youth from using tobacco which is deadly and addictive,” Chapman said. “We are proud that fewer retailers are selling cigarettes to minors, but we have more work to do to guarantee that all kids in California grow up tobacco-free.”

When the state first started monitoring illegal sales of tobacco in 1995, teens participating in the survey were able to buy tobacco products during 37 percent of tobacco purchase attempts. It has steadily gone down in recent years from 8.6 percent in 2009 to 7.7 percent in 2010 and 5.6 percent this year.

Although the illegal sales rate to minors was lower than previous years, there are still store types with high illegal sales rates. Stores that are considered non-traditional tobacco retailers, including donut shops, discount stores, deli/meat markets, gift stores and produce markets, have a higher illegal sale rate (9.8 percent average). Non-traditional stores with the highest rates are deli/meat markets (11.6 percent) and discount/gift stores (8.3 percent). This is about twice as high as traditional tobacco retailers, which include liquor stores, convenience stores with and without gas, supermarkets, drug stores/pharmacy, gas stations and tobacco shops, which average 4.8 percent. Traditional retailers with the lowest illegal sales rates included liquor stores (1.3 percent), convenience stores with and without gas (5.3 and 4.9 percent) and tobacco shops (6.5 percent).

This annual survey of illegal sales of cigarettes to minors is conducted to gauge the rate of illegal tobacco sales across California and to comply with the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act. All U.S. states and territories are required to assess their rate of illegal sales of tobacco to youth pursuant to the Federal Synar Amendment. California retailers caught selling tobacco products to minors are subject to fines ranging from $200 to $6,000.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education has been using its annual tobacco seminar to inform teens about the harmful health consequences of smoking and using other tobacco products.

More than 280 students from 30 high schools in Stanislaus County — including Turlock, Pitman, Roselawn, Denair, Denair Charter and Keyes to Learning Charter — will learn about the dangers of tobacco use at the “Tobacco Slam” training on Oct. 3 at the Martin Petersen Event Center in Modesto. The county uses a variety of programs including Stop Tobacco Access to Youth Enforcement Act, Recording your Success, Tobacco & Hollywood, Getting Noticed with a Good Ol’ Fashioned Butt Hunt, during the all-day seminar.

The goal of the event is to train the 280 teens to communicate what they learned to their peers through social media, photos, e-mails, posters and presentations. The students will be helping with four campaigns throughout the year at each of their schools to promote tobacco prevention. The different campaigns are Red Ribbon Week, Great American Smoke-Out, Lose the Chew and Kick Butts Day.   

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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