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Santa Barbara Ranks High in Tobacco Sales to Minors

County health and sheriff's departments use an underage decoy to survey cigarette retailers

A series of undercover efforts by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and Sheriff’s Department reveal that tobacco sales to minors remain a problem in the county.

Using an underage decoy, the two departments launched an operation to see which establishments would sell tobacco to the young person. Of the 276 retailers surveyed in the county, 48 sold the person cigarettes.

“The fact that 17 percent of tobacco retailers in our county sold tobacco to youth indicates a continued focus on prohibiting sales to minors is needed,” Dr. Takashi Wada, county health officer, said in a statement.

Across the county, the offenders varied in their sales to minors. The cities with the highest rates of illegal sales to minors was Buellton, at 42 percent of the locations surveyed, and Santa Barbara at 27 percent. Goleta had the lowest rank of illegal sales, and only two of 33 store sold to the minor.

Though more than 78 communities have enacted policies to crack down on sales of tobacco to minors, officials say more is needed to quell the problem.

Though the county of Santa Barbara, as well as the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta, have tobacco retail policies, it has been 10 years since they were passed and they’re in need of an update, according to Dawn Dunn, the county’s tobacco program administrator.

“These local policies have definitely made a difference,” she said. “However, they were passed almost 10 years ago and could be more effective if they were updated.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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