Keeping Children and Teens Tobacco-free in LA County
Cigarette smoking almost always begins in adolescence, with 80 percent of adult smokers having started before the age of 18. Youth smoking is associated with greater likelihood of adult smoking, heavier use of cigarettes and more difficulty quitting. It is estimated that 200 children become addicted to tobacco each day in California.
Two state laws in California make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors:
- Penal Code Section 308(a) – It is a misdemeanor to sell, furnish or give tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age. Retailers that break the law are subject to fines.
- STAKE Act (Stop Tobacco Access to Kids) – It is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors. Retailers must post warning signs about the law at points of sale and are required to check the identification of anyone who appears to be under 18.
Tobacco Sales to Minors – The Problem
Youth Purchase Surveys conducted in LA County during 2005 and 2009 found high rates of retailers willing to sell cigarettes to minors. On average, these rates are more than three times as high as the state of California’s illegal sales rate of 8.5 percent.
Retail stores near schools sell cigarettes to minors at much higher rates than stores located further away from schools. In 2003, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office received a grant for research that found a 44.3 percent increase in sales of tobacco products from retail stores that were located within close proximity of schools.
Students in select LA Unified School District schools will participate in the City Attorney’s T.A.R.G.E.T. (Teens and Retailers Getting Educated on Tobacco) Project to promote youth awareness of tobacco’s presence and influence in their community.