Following several sting operations in which a number of Goleta and Isla Vista retailers were caught selling cigarettes to minors, many stores – including I.V. Market – are now trying to keep their tobacco licenses from going up in smoke.

Several local stores – including I.V. Market, Talevi’s Wine & Spirits, Thrifty Oil, Angelo’s Liquor, and the Vons and Unocal 76 on Fairview Avenue – are currently fighting the potential suspension of their tobacco licenses by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. The department decided to take action against the stores after local law enforcement officers, including members of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP), conducted a series of sting operations between June 14 and 15 of this year.

According to a press release from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept., the department could suspend the retailers’ licenses for between 30 and 60 days. The businesses were each given a chance to file appeals with the Health Dept., which reviews the cases.

I.V. Market manager Mike Corson said the IVFP conducted the sting that resulted in the store receiving a suspension notice from the Health Dept. He said officers in civilian clothing had a minor purchase cigarettes from local stores to catch employees in the act of selling tobacco products to people under 18.

“She was 16,” Corson said. “We even have a picture of her in the back.”

This suspension marks I.V. Market’s third time dealing with allegations of illegal tobacco sales from the Santa Barbara County Health Dept.

IVFP Officer Marty Rose said the Health Dept. hires doctors to review the appeals based on recommendations from authorities such as the United States’ Surgeon General.

“Unlike a criminal case, a doctor decides whether to allow the businesses to continue selling tobacco products,” Rose said.

Retailers received multiple warnings before facing the suspension of their licenses, Rose said. He said officers only set the stings up because they had received numerous complaints about local retailers allegedly selling tobacco to minors.

“Stings only occur if complaints or violations occur,” Rose said.

While I.V. Market can still sell tobacco products while its appeal is under review, Corson said the store could face a drop in profits if its license is suspended. He said customers would also suffer during the suspension because they would have to find other places to purchase tobacco products.

“This affects us tremendously because now a customer has to go to another store to buy cigarettes,” Corson said.

Corson said he thinks the sting operations have forced local businesses to be more vigilant about monitoring the ages of people who are purchasing both cigarettes and alcohol.

“We ID for cigarettes just like we do for beer or alcohol,” Corson said. “It has to be dealt with just like alcohol.”