Isbell students are tobacco busters with store awareness program

May 30, 2000
Santa Paula News
A group of Isbell Middle School students don’t want local merchants to make a mi-STAKE and sell tobacco to minors. . .so they took to the streets of Santa Paula to make sure all stores that offer tobacco products are meeting state requirements for signage noting the illegality of sales to minors. Youth for Healthy Families contacted 40 merchants over a three-day survey period and found that only a dozen were in compliance with the state law that requires them to post the sign warning “The sale of tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age is prohibited by law and subject to penalties. Valid identification may be required. To report an unlawful tobacco sale call 1-800-5ASK-4-ID.”Jose Patino, 14; Trinidad Nava, 13; Miguel Hernandez, 12; Jaime Vasquez, 12; Ivan Hernandez, 13 made their presentation to Police Chief Bob Gonzales and SPPD Agt. Jimmy Fogata at the Las Piedras Park Community Policing Building on May 17th. Lorraine Velasquez, 13; Jose Ramirez, 12; and Jorge Garcia, 12, were unable to attend the event but received credit from their teammates for their efforts.The local STAKE - Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act - effort is overseen by El Concilio of Ventura County; Christina Jaloma, coordinator of Operation Storefront, as the local program was named, said 36 students initially signed up for the effort and the eight that finished the program are “super dedicated” to making sure teens aren’t able to purchase tobacco products.Ivan Hernandez said if merchants are caught illegally selling tobacco products they can be fined up to $6,000 and kids that do can also face fines and community service.“The law requires that merchants ask for identification,” if a person looks less than 18 years old, just as displaying the STAKE card is legally mandated, he added.
Merchants were visited by the youths and given education, a presentation and special STAKE packets including everything they need to be in compliance with the law: although most merchants that had failed to display the STAKE card were quick to put it on their counters and thanked the young tobacco busters, several were resistant, and Chief Gonzales assured the students those merchants would be visited regarding their non-compliance.Each student that is taking part in the program said they have a personal reason to help stamp out smoking: relatives that smoke or are thinking of starting ranked high on their reasons for becoming so involved in the STAKE-out.Chief Gonzales said their efforts were impressive and thanked them for their help: “You can make a difference in someone’s life. . .and the SPPD may recruit you to do some work for us!”“They’re good kids. . .it’s not easy to walk in off the street and do what they did,” said Agt. Fogata, who after the presentation let the kids watch him put K-9 Sultan through his paces.

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