An undercover tobacco operation by the Santa Barbara Police Department on Tuesday, June 17, resulted in seven citations for selling tobacco products to people too young to legally use them.
Police conducted the operation with the help of two underage females, 15 and 17 years old, as a part of the Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program, which is funded by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. The program aims to enforce California Penal Code Section 308(a), which makes it illegal to sell, give, or furnish tobacco products to persons under 18.
An officer in civilian clothes entered each store before the decoy to ensure her safety and to witness the event. The female approached the register and asked for a brand of cigarettes. When asked for identification and age, the decoy provided her true age. If a clerk sold cigarettes to her, she walked outside, where a uniformed officer was waiting, and gave him the cigarettes, change, and receipt. The uniformed officer then joined his partner inside, issued a citation and interviewed the clerk, and then returned the cigarettes to the store. The returned money was then used at the next store.
Of the 40 locations visited, police reported these seven as having sold to one of the underage decoys: Cantwell’s Market (1533 State St.), AM/PM (1935 State St.), Long’s Drug Store (3939 State St.), 7-Eleven (3430 State St.), USA Gas (8 S. Milpas St.), Circle K (200 S. Milpas St.), and the Chevron station on Coast Village Road.
According to Santa Barbara Public Information Officer Lorenzo Duarte, any person or firm that sells tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia to a minor must pay a $200 fine for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for the third offense under state law.