September 5, 2009 (El Cajon) – In 2004, the City of El Cajon adopted a tough ordinance to make retailers who sell tobacco to minors risk the same penalty as those who sell alcohol to under-age customers: suspension or revocation of their licenses. The program has proven effective: sales of tobacco to minors has dropped from 40% before the ordinance to just 5% in 2008, according to a report presented to the El Cajon City Council in late August.
Alma Alvarez, Ivette Navarro, and Katie Watkins represesnting Students Together Against Alcohol and Drugs (STAAND) presented outcomes of the annual Tobacco Retailer Licensing Ordinance compliance checks to the El Cajon City Council and explained the Youth Purchase Survey procedures. In addition, Evelyn Hogan, CASA, presented California Healthy Kids Survey data and the connection between retail compliance, overall community health and long-term public health outcomes.
California laws have prohibited tobacco sales to minors for more than 100 years, but these laws have not been routinely enforced—until now. An estimated 80% of all adult smokers in the US started smoking before the age of 18. More than sixty communities in California now have similar laws. Nearly all of them have seen big decreases in cigarette sales to minors.
Administration of the tobacco retailer licensing program in El Cajon is funded by licensing fees paid for by those who profit from tobacco sales.