Eight Atascadero stores sell tobacco to minor during sting

Clerks at eight stores in Atascadero were cited earlier this month for selling tobacco to an underage decoy during a sting organized by the Atascadero Police Department and the county Public Health Department's tobacco control program.

The 17-year-old decoy tried to buy tobacco at 25 stores in the city on Aug. 9. The information on the sting was released this week.

Of the eight stores that allegedly sold to the minor, half checked identification and still sold the tobacco, officials said, while the other half didn't ask for identification.

Four of the eight stores cited had previously been involved in illegal sales to a minor in the past year.

Authorities allege that the store clerks who sold tobacco to the minor worked at:

  • CVS, 8320 El Camino Real - Also cited in March 2010
  • Discount Cigarette, 8457 El Camino Real
  • El Camino Liquor Inc., 7403 El Camino Real ­ Also cited in November 2009
  • San Anselmo Unocal 76 gas station, 6105 San Anselmo Road ­ Also cited in November 2009
  • Shell gas station, 8000 Morro Road - Also cited in November 2009
  • Spencer's Fresh Markets, 8665 El Camino Real
  • The Club Smoke Shop, 5735 El Camino Real
  • 7-Eleven, 8000 El Camino Real

The clerks face up to a $2,000 fine, according to the county. Since there is no tobacco retail-licensing ordinance in Atascadero, the clerk receives the fine. San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the county's unincorporated areas have tobacco retail licensing ordinances.

Periodic checks are conducted throughout the county in an ongoing effort to reduce youth access to tobacco products.

The operation is the third in a series of compliance checks in Atascadero since November 2009. The checks have generated a 32 percent illegal sales rate for Atascadero ­- an increase over the last two checks - according to the county's statistics. The first sting was in November 2009 with a 22 percent rate and the second followed in March with a 23 percent rate, according to the county.

The current average for illegal sales in the California is 12.6 percent, officials said.

The county has worked to educate merchants in the last year by sending materials and signs to stores and educating managers on how to train their clerks to check identification so tobacco is only sold to adults.

Following Atascadero's March tobacco compliance check, Atascadero Mayor Roberta Fonzi awarded certificates of appreciation to the stores with clerks that didn't sell tobacco to the decoy.