CITY — An undercover effort by teen volunteers found that one in five
tobacco sellers in Daly City and South San Francisco sold cigarettes to
minors without checking their ages, the teens announced Friday.
teens, part of local substance abuse nonprofit Asian American Recovery
Services, or AARS, chose 48 stores at random in 2009. Cooperating with
local law enforcement agencies, they tried to buy tobacco without
providing identification, program supervisor Sarah Rodriguez'G said. A
similar effort targeting 60 stores in 2006 yielded a higher successful
buy rate — 25 percent.
"So the number's come down, which is good,
but it's still a lot higher than the state average, which is about 13
percent," Rodriguez'G said. In areas with a higher average income
level, such as Menlo Park, less than 10 percent of tested stores sold
tobacco to underage teens, she added.
Seeking more to raise
awareness of the issue than to penalize specific stores, AARS did not
release the names of shops that sold tobacco to teens, though
Rodriguez'G said that information would be available to the San Mateo
County Sheriff's Office.
AARS offers service across San Mateo
County, but the teens focused the sting in Daly City and South San
Francisco because they felt access was highest there, due to a lower
average income and a proliferation of stores that sell tobacco, said DJ
Montanto, a 16-year-old senior at Daly City's Westmoor High School.
"It's never been a problem
in my life, but I'm fearful for the younger generation," Montano said.
"And I've had friends and family who have that kind of trouble. Since
eighth grade, I've seen kids with abuse problems. They're still
children, and they're already ruining their bodies. It hits hard for
Blanca Soza, an 18-year-old Daly City resident and AARS
member, said teen drinking and smoking was a huge problem at Jefferson
High School, from which she recently graduated.
"Our goal is to
get the laws better enforced," Soza said. To fund that extra
enforcement, she said, the county fees for stores to sell tobacco need
to be raised. Currently, they're $108; AARS is hoping to get that
number increased to $300.
Daly City police Sgt. David Mackriss
said that without more funding, the department likely wouldn't be able
to increase its enforcement of tobacco laws.
"We'd have to put
together a special team, a special time," Mackriss said. "We're already
in the process of cutting resources. For programs like that, we rely on
funding obtained through grants. It's kind of akin to special DUI
One goal of increasing county fees for selling
tobacco, Soza said, would be to provide some of those extra funds. She
said she hopes a fee increase won't be too difficult to achieve
because, while doing some public opinion outreach for AARS, she found
that 94 percent of people polled believed it's easy for teens to
AARS next plans to work on alcohol issues, the
teens said, and volunteers are spending part of the summer taking
pictures of the world around them, focusing both on positive images
such as activity centers and on negative images such as cigarette
billboards and beer bottles discarded in the street.
For more information, call AARS at 650-243-4888 or go to www.aars-inc.org.