Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Feb. 7 @ 4:45 p.m. / Business, Health

Underage Decoy Bought Tobacco At 6 Out of 19 Stores in Del Norte County

Two months after Crescent City adopted its tobacco retail license, an underage individual was able to purchase cigarettes, Cigarillos and other products at six Del Norte County stores.

The youth was a decoy the county’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program (TUPP) recruited to find out if businesses were complying with federal, state and local laws prohibiting the sale to individuals under 21.

On Dec. 21, they visited 19 stores within the city limits and in Del Norte’s unincorporated area, bringing their ID and cash, Health Education Coordinator Crystal Yang told the Wild Rivers Outpost.

Though law enforcement wasn’t involved due to conflicting schedules — which means the six stores involved didn’t face legal penalties — TUPP followed up with the proprietor, providing recommendations and training on how to address the issue, Yang said.

“Every owner I spoke to was quite surprised that their staff had sold to a minor,” she told the Outpost on Wednesday. “For the most part all the owners followed up with staff or asked us to go out and do training with their staff. They’ve all been like, ‘I don’t want this happening in my store. I know the consequences of selling to minors and I definitely don’t want that to happen in my store.’”

According to Yang, TUPP’s decoys were between 18 and 21. They had to sign a consent form and take their actual driver’s license in with them when they were asked to produce ID.

Prior to the decoy operation, Yang said they had discussed what products they would be purchasing. Flavors weren’t available — California voters upheld a ban on flavored tobacco products in 2022. Instead, the decoys went in to see what products were available on the shelf that they could purchase.

Crescent City approved its tobacco retail license in October 2023. The license included restrictions on where businesses could advertise tobacco products both in and out of their store and mandated that pharmacies couldn’t sell tobacco products.

Del Norte County adopted its tobacco retail license ordinance in August 2022.

Yang said she expects TUPP will conduct tobacco decoy operations at least every two years. She said she’d be happy to work with law enforcement on future operations.

In a Wednesday news release, Yang stated that it’s crucial for local businesses to follow guidelines to prevent administrative fines and having their tobacco retail license revoked.


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