Businesses cited will face fines, clerks cited can opt into restorative justice program
The Yolo County District Attorney’s office carried out an undercover operation on March 9 and 10, during which it cited five Davis stores for the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors. The investigation was conducted throughout 27 locations in Davis.
It is illegal to sell tobacco and tobacco-related paraphernalia to anyone under the age of 21 in California with the exception of military personnel. Tobacco vendors must check the ID of anyone who appears to look under 27 years old. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines up to $6,000.
The investigations involved an undercover DA investigator and an undercover minor decoy. If the decoy minor attempts to purchase tobacco, and the clerk sells it to them, then the DA investigator can issue a citation. Law enforcement is allowed to use minors as decoys for these undercover operations, in accordance with the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The Yolo County DA worked with the Yolo County Health Department for this investigation and other issues surrounding the underage sale of tobacco. Together, the DA’s office, the Yolo County Department of Health services and the Yolo County Anti-Tobacco Youth Coalition form the Tobacco Retail Monitoring Program. The goal of the program is to “decrease the illegal sale rate of tobacco to minors in Yolo County.”
“We have a long-standing partnership with the Health Department to try to enhance the health of our community,” said DA Jeff Reisig in a press release. “These efforts are an important opportunity to educate our youth about healthy choices, but also serve as opportunity to help the business community understand their role and responsibility in the health of our youth.”
Underage tobacco sales are an ongoing problem in Yolo. The Yolo County DA conducted a similar investigation in 2014 in which five other stores were cited for similar reasons.
According to the DA office press release, however, the DA and YCHD have offered many resources to businesses in order to make sure they have been in compliance with the law.
“Health Department and DA staff first work to educate businesses about compliance issues, visiting the businesses and even offering a report card of compliance issues where they may need correction or improvement,” the release states. “During these outreach visits the businesses are informed about the goals of compliance and that underage tobacco purchase operations will be conducted as part of the overall illegal tobacco sales cessation effort.”
In addition, the DA’s office offered an alternative sentence to the cited businesses. The cited clerks are allowed to participate in Neighbourhood Court, the DA’s restorative justice program.
“NHC uses the principles of restorative justice to resolve offenses outside of the traditional courtroom,” the NHC website states. “Participants meet in a relaxed setting to discuss their conduct with members of the local community panelists in what is called a conference. The conference is designed to hold participants accountable by helping them recognize the harms caused by their conduct. Then the panelists, participant, and victim (when present) can come up with a collaborative solution designed to address those harms in a way that is restorative rather than punitive.”
The businesses cited by the DA will face administrative sanctions and fines. More information can be found on the DA’s website.
Written by: Hannan Waliullah — firstname.lastname@example.org