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Rate of Illegal Tobacco Sales to Youth Falls  

Date: 11/14/2013 

Number: 13-053 

Contact: Anita Gore, Heather Bourbeau (916) 440-7259 


Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, today released the California rate of illegal tobacco sales to minors, which has decreased to the second lowest rate in the survey’s history. The 2013 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey found that illegal tobacco sales to minors at retail outlets occurred at a rate of 7.6 percent. This decrease comes after 2012 showed the highest rate in four years (8.7 percent). 
chart: Percent of retailers selling tobacco to youth

“We are pleased that fewer youth are being sold deadly and addictive tobacco products,” Chapman said. “However, there are still areas of concern to ensure all youth in California cannot illegally obtain tobacco.” 

Over the last few years, the number of retailers who illegally sold tobacco products to minors has leveled off in rural areas of the state to slightly more than 8 percent. However, this rate is declining at a slower rate than the rates in urban and suburban areas. Though steadily declining, retailers in urban communities are illegally selling more tobacco to youth (9.6 percent) than are the retailers in suburban areas (4.0 percent). 

Although the illegal sales rate to minors decreased in 2013, there are still some types of stores with high rates of illegal sales. Those include:

  • Discount and gift stores, gas stations without convenience stores and car washes. (11.4 percent).
  • Convenience stores that sell gasoline (10.0 percent).
  • Convenience stores that do not sell gasoline (increased from 3.0 percent in 2012 to 8.6 percent in 2013.)
  • Liquor stores (8.1 percent).  

The illegal sales rate in tobacco stores decreased sharply in 2013, from 20.5 percent in 2012 to 6.2 percent. None of the supermarkets or drug stores/pharmacies surveyed this year illegally sold tobacco to minors. 

The state’s adult smoking prevalence rate is 12.7 percent (2012), which has consistently been the second lowest in the nation. Since 1989, California’s tobacco control efforts have saved more than 1 million lives. Lung cancer is decreasing in California three times faster than the rest of the nation. 

This annual survey of illegal sales of cigarettes to minors is conducted to gauge the rate of illegal tobacco sales across California and to comply with the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) Act. All U.S. states and territories are required to assess their rate of illegal sales of tobacco to youth, pursuant to the Federal Synar Amendment. Besides conducting the annual survey, the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch, conducts ongoing illegal sales enforcement operations. California retailers caught selling tobacco products to minors during these enforcement operations are subject to fines ranging up to $6,000. 

Additional data from the 2013 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey can be found on the CDPH website.








Last modified on: 11/14/2013 9:04 AM