Recent undercover operations in Santa Barbara County show an encouraging trend with countywide sales of tobacco products to youth declining.

Only 36 of the 300 retailers surveyed this year sold cigarettes to an underage youth decoy, for a 12 percent sales rate down from 16 percent last year. Though this is the lowest overall rate ever recorded for the county; city results are mixed.

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of illegal sales decreased in 50 percent of the cities surveyed and increased in the other half, as shown in the listing below. This year, fewer youth decoys were able to buy tobacco in the cities of Buellton (0/12), Santa Barbara (8/82), Goleta (4/30) and Santa Maria (12/78) than in the prior year. However, findings in other cities show that these rates are on the rise; this is the case in Solvang (1/5), Guadalupe (1/7), Carpinteria (2/17) and Lompoc (4/23).

Sales to minors in the unincorporated area remained stable at 9 percent during the last two undercover buy operations. This marks the first time since 1994 that the county’s 75 retail stores have shown a rate below 10 percent in consecutive years.

Sales of Tobacco to Minors (2013 vs. 2014)

» Solvang — 0%, 20%

» Lompoc — 10%, 17%

» Santa Maria — 25%, 15%

» Guadalupe — 0%, 14%

» Goleta — 25%, 13%

» Carpinteria — 0%, 12%

» Santa Barbara — 24%, 10%

» Unincorporated Areas — 9%, 9%

» Buellton — 8%, 0%

Dr. Takashi Wada, director of the county’s Public Health Department, stated, “Though findings across the county are encouraging, continued local efforts are needed to maintain progress. This work is especially important now, with the emergence of newer products that attract young people, like electronic cigarettes and flavored cigarillos.”

For more information about the methodology used in these operations or about tobacco retail license suspensions that may result from the violations, contact Dawn Dunn at 805.681.5407 or