November 7, 2003
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A store in east Contra Costa County became the first retailer in California to have its tobacco retailer's license suspended for selling cigarettes to minors.
Shop and Save Market, Inc. of Bay Point had its tobacco license suspended for seven days, beginning Monday, by the county after it was cited by the Sheriff's Office for selling to a minor during a sting operation. The decision to suspend the license was reached after a hearing last month by Contra Costa Health Services.
"This is a week's suspension, from November 10 to 17, which is a minimal length. The law allows the license to be suspended for up to 30 days for the first violation. During this period, there will be no sales or display of tobacco products. We will be inspecting the store during the suspension to check for compliance," says Dr. Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa Public Health Director, who presided over the hearing.
"We are serious about this," says Brunner, adding that selling tobacco in Contra Costa is a privilege. "If retailers want to keep their licenses, they need only to obey tobacco sales laws. Staff training is key. They shouldn't sell to minors, they should always ask to see the ID of people wishing to buy cigarettes and they should fully comply with the Tobacco Free Youth Ordinance (TFYO) that is in place in their locality."
Brunner says that since Shop and Save Market received the suspension, the store has given additional training to its staff on sales to minors in order to prevent any future, and longer, license suspensions.
The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors enacted the ordinance requiring a retail license to sell tobacco in January 2003, and it became effective June 1.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to support enforcement of the law against tobacco sales to minors," says Brunner, who also calls on the tobacco industry to stop marketing to youth.
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