Ending Youth Access to Tobacco

Person holding broken cigaretteFor the last decade, the Tobacco Education Coalition (TEC) 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 (TRL) 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,

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (E-Cigarettes, Vape Pens, Etc.) 

More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to a CDC study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.  This is a three-fold increase from 2011. E-cigarettes often contain nicotine and there is evidence that nicotine's effect on youth brain development could lead to lasting deficits in cognitive function. One of TEC's objectives is to increase regulation of electronic nicotine delivery devices by amending tobacco retail ordinances to broaden the definition of tobacco product to include the devices.

More information: 

Other Resources:

  • 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.