LOS ANGELES – Calling it a key to protecting children and keeping neighborhoods safe, City Attorney Mike Feuer today launched a new city-wide initiative to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors.
The City Attorney’s Responsible Retailer Initiative is a collaboration with parents, public health officials and retailers including Ralphs’ and Food4Less, to raise awareness and provide education about preventing tobacco sales to youth. Made possible through a $175,000 grant to the County Department of Public Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program is the latest salvo in Feuer’s ongoing efforts to protect children and enhance the quality of life in Los Angeles neighborhoods.
"Our new initiative will protect kids by empowering parents and engaging retailers in an ongoing program to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors," said Feuer. "This project goes hand-in-hand with our Neighborhood School Safety Program, which collaborates with key stakeholders to enhance the health and safety of our youth."
"Creating a healthy retail environment benefits everyone. Children who go into convenience stores to buy food and drinks are already confronted with many unhealthy choices. Allowing tobacco and alcohol advertisements that target children to be included in this environment is unacceptable," said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "The Department of Public Health applauds the efforts of the LA City Attorney’s Tobacco Enforcement program to make our communities safer and healthier for everyone.”
“Ralphs and Food 4 Less are proud to support the Responsible Retailer Initiative as we all work together to build safer, healthier communities, said Kendra Doyel, VP, Public Relations and Government Affairs, Ralphs Grocery Company. “It is our hope that all retailers will join in this effort, supporting our City Attorney Mike Feuer and law enforcement, to make our city a healthier place for our children.”
The City Attorney’s effort includes increasing its compliance checks of tobacco retailers from 446 in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 to 700 in Fiscal Year 2014-2015. In 2014 the Tobacco Enforcement Program suspended 17 tobacco retailers throughout the City. A 30-day suspension of the tobacco retailer permit occurs when a retailer sells to a minor for a second time in a five year period. First violation results in a warning letter - a Letter of Reprimand. A third violation results in a 90-day suspension, a fourth violation results a year suspension. The City Attorney will soon request that the City Council amend current city regulations to include increased penalties for retailers found in violation.
The Responsible Retailer Initiative is designed to educate parents and tobacco retailers near schools about tobacco laws and responsible retail practices and create safe, healthier neighborhoods for children. The initiative is comprised of three main components including: educational presentations to students and parents; outreach to retailers; and a partnership with LAUSD, LAPD, and the City Attorney’s Neighborhood Prosecutor and Neighborhood School Safety Programs.
The City Attorney’s Office has conducted educational presentations to parents of students at Barack Obama Global Preparatory Middle School, Joseph Le Conte Middle School, and John H. Liechty Middle School. The schools are part of Feuer’s Neighborhood School Safety Program. In addition, the City Attorney’s Office has conducted student assemblies and held poster contests on tobacco awareness at the schools.
The program will initially focus on areas with the greatest concentration of tobacco retailers and high illegal sales rates, utilizing a retailer “tool kit” designed to engage retailers through one on one outreach and mailings. The City Attorney’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit has also conducted a retail education program in collaboration with the California Board of Equalization to enhance understanding and compliance with the City’s tobacco laws including: checking ID’s, tobacco single sales, e-cigarettes, and storefront signage.
Currently there are 4,182 permitted retailers in Los Angeles.
According to research, California children buy 45.4 million packs of cigarettes each year. Retail stores near schools are known to sell cigarettes to minors at a much higher rate than other retailers.