Recent undercover operations document an ongoing problem with retailers selling tobacco to youth locally.
Of 341 retailers surveyed in Santa Barbara County, 12 percent (42 of 341) sold cigarettes to an underage decoy, more than double the statewide average of 5.4 percent.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department worked with law enforcement and youth-serving agencies to conduct its annual assessment of tobacco sales to minors. As in past surveys, a wide variation in sales rates was seen throughout the county.
Goleta had an alarmingly high rate of illegal sales with 39 percent (12 of 31) selling to the decoy. Over the last five years of data, the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta and Guadalupe all had their highest rates of illegal sales this year. Additionally, Solvang and Buellton’s rates rose significantly compared to having no underage sales in 2011. Lompoc showed a significant improvement with only 3 percent (1 of 33) of retailers selling this year compared with 31 percent (9 of 29) last year.
The unincorporated areas showed improvement as well with 13 percent (8 of 63) of sales this year compared with 18 percent (11 of 62) last year. Santa Maria retailers continued to show strong adherence to the laws with only 3 percent (2 of 79) selling this year and 6 percent (2 of 31) selling last year.
2012 Rates of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minors in Santa Barbara County
Community — Sales Rate — Stores That Sold Out of Total Stores Shopped
» Santa Maria: 3 percent, 2 out of 79
» Lompoc: 3 percent, 1 out of 33
» Santa Barbara: 9 percent, 8 out of 90
» Unincorporated: 13 percent, 8 out of 63
» Buellton: 17 percent, 2 out of 12
» Carpinteria: 26 percent, 5 out of 19
» Guadalupe: 29 percent, 2 out of 7
» Solvang: 29 percent, 2 out of 7
» Goleta: 39 percent, 12 out of 31
In 2010, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors strengthened the penalties associated with selling tobacco to minors in the unincorporated areas. Several cities also have expressed interest in passing similar ordinances.
“Although there is clearly room for improvement, we are pleased to see the illegal sales rate decrease in the unincorporated areas, which have a strong licensing ordinance,” said Dawn Dunn, administrator of the county’s Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program. “We will continue to educate the retailers about the laws and the importance of checking IDs and not selling tobacco to minors.”
On Sept. 6, the Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program will host a free Board of Equalization training for tobacco retailers. The event will be held in Santa Maria with video conferencing available in Santa Barbara. Retailers interested in attending should call 805.681.5407.
— Susan Klein-Rothschild for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.