Scientists investigated Lompoc and Solvang because they suspected that in these cities tobacco products are selling to minors. In Santa Barbara County officials have released the results of the annual secret "tobacco buy" operations. The results indicate that sales to minors are down from last year in Goleta and the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County, and that no sales to minors occurred from undercover buys in Lompoc or Solvang. The Public Health Department collaborated with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department for to conduct annual undercover buys in which youths, ages 15 or 16, act as undercover operatives and try to purchase tobacco products.
Results from the recent buys show that the unincorporated area’s rates are down to 10 percent this year from 15 percent last year. Researchers also found in the city of Goleta a decrease to 13 percent this year from 19 percent last year. The city of Santa Barbara had an 18 percent rate this year, up slightly from last year’s rate of 16 percent.
Tobacco licensing laws exist in Santa Barbara and Goleta and in the unincorporated areas of the county too. Licensing laws require businesses that sell tobacco products to obtain an annual permit and wait by all tobacco related laws, especially those concerning sales to minors. Public Health and Sheriff Department officials attribute the results to the licensing laws and consistent enforcement over time. Undercover tobacco buys were also conducted in other states too such as Carpentaria, resulting in a 24 percent illegal sales rate, Buellton with a 17 percent illegal sales rate, Guadalupe, where rates were 14 percent and Santa Maria at 13 percent.
After a full investigation researchers found that none of the tobacco retailers in Solvang and Lompoc sold tobacco products to the teen decoy during the annual checks. Also was found that in each of the communities, 84 percent to 100 percent of all tobacco retail outlets were shopped, with the exception of Santa Barbara, where 33 percent of the stores were visited. Sales of tobacco products to minors are monitored through routine unannounced enforcement operations. As a result of these local buys, five merchants face a potential 30-day suspension of the license.
The aim of anti-tobacco researchers is to stop selling tobacco products to minors.