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Sheriff’s Underage Tobacco Sting Catches 25 Offenders

The Sheriff’s Department and multiple police departments organized a sting targeting 89 retailers in Belmont, San Mateo and East Palo Alto.

Sheriff’s deputies conducted an enforcement sting in San Mateo, Belmont and East Palo Alto on Sept. 29 and found that 25 retailers sold tobacco to minors. In San Mateo, minors were able to purchase tobacco 33 percent of the time.

Officials said they were surprised that even after a large sting in North County in 2011, this sting netted 25 violators.

“This sting operation reinforces my belief that state and local governments need to have tough penalties and enforcement to ensure that stores don’t sell tobacco products to minors,” said Assemblymember Jerry Hill.

Hill introduced Assembly Bill 1301, which Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law, holding stores accountable by suspending and revoking their license to sell tobacco if they continue to break the law.

Officials believe technology and new ID formats helped retailers not sell to minors.

Some cash registers read the IDs of minors to calculate their ages. The register then locked to prevent the sale to the minor.

At other retailers, the vertical format of IDs issued to minors made their age more recognizable and stopped the sale.

Recently, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors also has pass resolutions of support to counter targeting of African-American youth and to mitigate tobacco advertising in films. The Board has also continually strengthened the local license that allows retailers the privilege of selling tobacco products in the county.

"We don't want young people smoking,” sand Supervisor Carole Groom. “It's a health issue. We must ensure that we put policies in place to keep them safe."

 

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