Ending Youth Access to Tobacco

Person holding broken cigaretteFor the last decade, the Tobacco Education Coalition has mounted a tremendously successful effort to limit the number of illegal sales of tobacco products to youth under age 18. Despite being underage, in the early 2000s, youth who attempted to purchase cigarettes in the community were able to do so more than 50% of the time. Through the establishment of partnerships with youth, schools, parents, law enforcement, and retailers, the number of documented youth sales has dropped dramatically. There is still more work to do, as a few retailers put profit before the law and continue to sell to minors without checking age-verifiable identification. The Tobacco Education Coalition continues to advocate for strong policies to protect youth from a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product. TEC also supports regular enforcement checks of all tobacco vendors to ensure that retailers are doing their part.

Tobacco Retailer License (TLR) Campaign

Best practices in research show that if young people do not start smoking during their teen years, they are unlikely to ever do so. All over the State of California and across the nation, communities have adopted Tobacco Retailer License (TRL) policies to address this important public health issue. A Tobacco Retailer License requires anyone who wishes for the privilege to sell tobacco products to pay and annual fee to do so with the agreement that they will follow the law and regularly check the identification of anyone who appears under the age of 30. The fee that they pay is used to administer the license and also to support enforcement operations that ensure that all retailers are compliant and not selling illegally to minors.

TRL policies have been successfully implemented in San Mateo County, with the most robust policy having been passed in Pacifica in 2008. The proper enforcement of a TRL dramatically reduces the number of illegal tobacco sales to youth and thus the number of youth who ever begin smoking in our community.

View Communities in San Mateo County that have adopted a local Tobacco Retailer License

For more information about Tobacco Retailer Licenses or youth tobacco use, contact us: (650) 573-3777,

The TRL campaign in San Mateo County has been led by youth advocates and organized by Youth Leadership Institute. For more information, contact them at: www.yli.org

Youth Led Smoke-free Movies Campaign

Local youth have been successfully advocating for smoke-free films in San Mateo County for the last decade. In recent years, their message about youth smoking and the influence of Hollywood has grasped the attention of the media and local leaders. Tobacco scenes in movies have been proven to be the leading factor influencing youth to smoke. As adult smokers begin to die off, the Tobacco Industry uses alternative ways to recruit new smokers. It is well documented that if young people do not begin smoking during their teenage years, that they might in fact never do so. However, an estimated 390,000 youth are recruited annually to pick up the habit through movies targeting young audiences. Between 1999-2006, tobacco was used in 75% of PG-13 and 36% of G and PG films. Studies have also shown that youth with the highest exposure to smoking are nearly three times more likely to start smoking than those with the least exposure. Additionally, youth who see their favorite actors smoking are more likely to begin smoking. See below for some of the great message these youth have communicated on the issue.

Other Resources:

  • Youth Leadership Institute (San Mateo County): YLI is the main organization in our county working on the Tobacco and Hollywood issue and advocating for policies that endorse the four solutions. http://www.yli.org/
  • California Youth Advocacy Network: CYAN is dedicated to supporting youth and young adults by advocating for a tobacco-free California by providing tobacco control professionals and young people with the tools needed to mobilize a powerful statewide movement http://cyanonline.org/
  • University of California, San Francisco: UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education acts as a focal point for tobacco research, education, cessation, and training. http://tobacco.ucsf.edu/
  • American Legacy Foundation: The Foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use with the goal to help youth say no to tobacco, and make tobacco and cessation services accessible to them. http://www.legacyforhealth.org/whoweare.aspx

Media Coverage

Over the nearly 10 years of the campaign to eliminate youth access to tobacco products in San Mateo County, the Tobacco Education Coalition has worked hard to disseminate the message of how youth sales lead to tobacco-addicted young people. Following are several articles related to the local campaign.

San Mateo County youth have been the leaders in the campaign to limit illegal sales to minors in the community. Youth advocates have collected local data, met with collaborative partners, and lead the cause to adopt policies that protect their fellow youth from predatory tobacco sales. These youth hail from many local organizations: