Cigarettes for minors? Not in Berkeley

Parents of teenagers will be heartened to learn that should their offspring want to buy cigarettes in Berkeley, they’re going to have a hard time doing so.

In a recent tobacco sting operation, only one store out of 43 in Berkeley sold tobacco to a 15-year-old.

The operation tested how well Berkeley’s tobacco vendors comply with the California Penal Code 308(a) which prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors. During the sting, a 15- or 16-year-old trained youth decoy attempted to buy a tobacco product while an undercover police officer looked on. If the merchant sells the tobacco product, the salesperson receives a $200 citation.

The rate at which Berkeley tobacco retailers sell tobacco to minors has fallen from 37% in 2002 to just 2.3% this year. The reduction is partially attributed to Berkeley’s tobacco retail permit law which went into effect in 2003. Tobacco retailers must pay a $480 annual fee for a permit, which can be suspended for 30 days or longer each time a tobacco control violation occurs.


The sting was a collaboration between the Public Health Division, the Police Department, the Environmental Health Division and YouthWorks.

Photo: spo0nman/creative commons.