New law cracks down on selling tobacco to minors

September 18, 2012 1:42:21 PM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that creates tougher penalties for stores that sell cigarettes to minors, and the bill's author, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, is crediting youth groups in San Mateo County with spurring the new law.

Hill, D-San Mateo, said he introduced Assembly Bill 1301 in 2011 after meeting with teenagers from the Youth Leadership Institute of San Mateo, who enlisted him to help them curb sales of tobacco to underage teens.

"I've always been a proponent of anti-smoking issues, especially when it comes to young people," Hill said.

As a San Mateo city councilman in the mid 1990s, Hill helped pass an anti-smoking ordinance that prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars. The ordinance was among the toughest in the state at the time, he said.

AB 1301 requires the state Board of Equalization, which issues tobacco sales licenses to retailers, to suspend a store's tobacco license for 45 days if it is caught selling to a minor three times in a five-year period.

A fourth violation would result in a 90-day suspension, and a fifth would cause the retailer's tobacco license to be permanently revoked.

Before AB 1301, retailers or clerks caught selling tobacco products to minors were often just fined, which had less of an effect than a license suspension on a store's profits, Hill said.

The stricter AB 1301 was signed into law by Brown over the weekend.

Hill said it was the young people he worked with -- some of whom spoke before the Legislature -- that generated the momentum for the new law's passage.

"The nice thing is, it was really the young people who were the driving force," he said.

Hill today will join members of the Youth Leadership Institute, San Mateo County Friday Night Live, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and various other groups to celebrate the new law.

The event will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Mid-Peninsula Boys and Girls Club at 200 North Quebec St. in San Mateo.


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