Campaign sparks dialogue on underage tobacco sales in Apple Valley

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APPLE VALLEY – Flavored Swisher Sweets – a tobacco product banned in California, was found to be the most popular product sold to underaged youth in Apple Valley.

The Apple Valley Against Tobacco campaign, a collaboration between nonprofit Music Changing Lives and California Health Collaborative (CHC) ran a decoy operation to see what the access to tobacco was for youth under age 21.

“We did team up and have youth from the age of 18 to 20 that participated and we went out to the local retailers in Apple Valley and attempted to purchase tobacco to see if retailers were willing to sell or not,” said CHC Program Manager Patricia Lopez. “I do want to share that yes our youth were able to purchase tobacco in Apple Valley under 21.”

The campaign hosted a community dialogue, March 23, to help reduce youth access to tobacco.

1,000 foot restriction from youth sensitive areas

In 2022, Senate Bill 793 went into effect, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in California.

“This was implemented to take it a step further to protect youth from tobacco products because what we’ve been seeing is that these flavored tobacco products are what is so enticing to youth and what really catches their attention,” said Lopez.

Although these products are now banned, Music Changing Lives CEO and Founder Josiah Bruny says they continue to find stores willing to sell tobacco to kids.

“Cities and towns across our region need tobacco retail licensing (TRL) policies to prevent retailers from selling tobacco products to underage youth, potentially exposing them to a lifelong nicotine addiction,” said Bruny.

Bruny says that local TRL policies can be adapted to meet the unique needs of communities such as restricting them from selling tobacco products within 1,000 feet of youth sensitive areas like schools and parks.

Put them on Facebook

Apple Valley community leaders and residents provided their input to help identify long term goals that they would like to see happen.

Apple Valley Council Member Curt Emick said in addition to his goal of educating the people, he wants to see what the community can do to embarrass the retailers.

“Let’s let those companies know. Put it on Facebook – this company sells to 18-year-olds,” said Emick.

Lopez said that although they don’t make the retailer’s information public, exposing those known to sell to underage youth is something the community can do.

Upcoming event and survey results

The Apple Valley Against Tobacco campaign is holding a third event, June 1st, to continue to engage with the community.  

In addition, Lopez says they will release the full data on their underage tobacco sales rate in the next couple of weeks.

For more information about the Apple Valley Against Tobacco campaign visit https://tobaccofreesbc.org/

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