The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at a meeting yesterday to ban the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 yards of local schools.
The board approved an amendment to Chapter 37A of the Santa Barbara County Code that prohibits the issuing of new Tobacco Retailer Licenses to businesses operating within 1,000 yards of any public or private K-12 grade school. While businesses with previously issued Tobacco Retailer Licenses will remain unaffected, the amendment will also strengthen penalties for businesses that break existing laws regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors.
According to recent statewide surveys cited in the code, 38 percent of underage tobacco sales took place at business located within 1,000 yards of a school campus. In 2001, a survey found that 75 percent of smokers began using tobacco before the age of 18.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the amendment’s main proponent, said he supports the legislation’s aim to reduce the availability of tobacco products to minors.
“It’s all about protecting the health of our children,” Carbajal said. “It penalizes businesses that violate the law. It enhances penalties, mostly in the area of suspending licenses.”
County Taxpayers’ Association Executive Director Joe Armendariz said he feels the county’s efforts to curb underage smoking represents its dedication to the community’s well-being.
“It’s probably a responsible thing to do whatever we can to protect the public health, especially when it comes to children,” Armendariz said. “Carbajal’s plan seems rather reasonable and not extreme.”
However, Armendariz said he thinks implementing the ordinance may prove difficult, especially considering recent cuts to local law enforcement funding.
“Frankly, they don’t have a lot of resources,” Armendariz said. “[The legislation] is only as good as the local government’s ability to enforce it.”
Andy Caldwell, executive director of the county’s Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business, said he feels the board should carefully prioritize its limited funds to address what he considers more significant problems.
“We don’t condone selling cigarettes to minors, but there are many more pressing problems like drugs and binge drinking,” Caldwell said. “The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors should be focusing their very scarce resources on these more pressing problems.”
Norm Clevenger, principal of Santa Barbara’s San Marcos High School, said she thinks the county is pouring time and money into the wrong end of the equation.
“When it comes to drugs, alcohol and tobacco, kids can obviously still access them [despite the amendment],” Clevenger said. “We need to educate them on making good decisions.”