Sacramento, California - Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, released the California rate of illegal tobacco sales to minors, which has increased to the highest rate since 2008. The 2014 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey found that illegal tobacco sales to minors at retail outlets occurred at a rate of 9.0 percent, compared to 7.6 percent last year. 

“While we are pleased that this is the sixth consecutive year our illegal sales to minors rate remained under 10 percent, we are concerned that a higher percentage of youths this year illegally had access to tobacco products than in recent years,” Chapman said. 

The illegal sales rate in tobacco stores was especially high in 2014 at 18.6 percent. Other types of stores with particularly high rates of illegal sales include:

  • Convenience stores that sell gasoline (10.4 percent)
  • Restaurants, donut shops, meat and produce markets (9.6 percent)
  • Other less common store types, such as discount and gift stores, gas stations without convenience stores and car washes (9.5 percent)

In 2014, supermarkets and drug stores/pharmacies had the lowest rate of illegal sales at 3.2 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively. In addition, 8.1 percent of liquor stores illegally sold tobacco to minors.

In California, 10.5 percent of high school students reported smoking in the last 30 days (2012). The state’s adult smoking prevalence rate is 11.7 percent (2013), which has consistently been the second lowest in the nation. Lung cancer is decreasing in California three times faster than the rest of the nation.

This annual survey of illegal sales of cigarettes to minors is conducted to gauge the rate of illegal tobacco sales across California and to comply with the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) Act. All U.S. states and territories are required to assess their rate of illegal sales of tobacco to youth, pursuant to the Federal Synar Amendment. Besides conducting the annual survey, the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch, conducts ongoing illegal sales enforcement operations. California retailers caught selling tobacco products to minors during these enforcement operations are subject to fines up to $6,000.

Additional data from the 2014 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey can be found on the CDPH website.