Cigarette sting has good results |

Cigarette sting has good results

It’s not easy to buy cigarettes in South Lake Tahoe if you’re a teen-ager.

At least it wasn’t on Aug. 4 when two pairs of teens teamed up with law enforcement personnel in a sting operation.

The teens, ages 14 through 17, only got one store in Meyers of the 22 they visited in South Lake Tahoe area to sell cigarettes to them.

A police officer, dressed in plain clothes, witnessed the transaction and then cited the clerk for violating a California law that makes it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The law also requires store clerks to ask for identification from anyone buying tobacco or alcohol who appears to be under the age of 27.

Betsy Tapper, of the El Dorado County Health Department, said this is the first undercover cigarette sting in South Lake Tahoe. But there have been at least four other supervised attempt scenarios, where teens ask for the cigarette but don’t actually buy them, during the last six years.

In the first of the four attempts, Tapper said more than half of the vendors were willing to sell cigarettes to the teens. Since then, the numbers have steadily declined.

“There’s been local, statewide and TV campaigns to get the message out not to sell cigarettes to kids,” she said. “And that’s what we want – fewer ways for kids to get cigarettes.”

Though not many stores are selling cigarettes to teens in South Lake Tahoe, kids are obtaining tobacco products from other sources.

Studies conducted by the El Dorado County Health Department of ninth-grade and 12th-grade students at South Tahoe High found that as many as 30 percent of the ninth-grade students identify themselves as occasional or regular smokers.

“In 12th grade, it’s only 20 percent,” she said. “It’s less as they get older because they’re not as easily influenced as the younger students.”

She said those figures, which have stayed fairly constant over the years, are important because people tend to determine during their teen years if they will be smokers for the rest of their lives.

“People begin smoking at high school age,” Tapper said. “They rarely start smoking at the age of 30.”

El Dorado County Public Health Department statistics show that California ranks second to last, in front of Utah, with the lowest per capita smoking rate at 18 percent of the state population. Nevada, with its smoking population of 37 percent, ranks fourth highest in the nation.

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