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New Ordinance Aims to Crack Down on Underage Smoking

San Diego city council passed a tobacco ordinance on Monday after two years of negotiations. The law should make it more difficult for underage youth to buy cigarettes. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

It was a breath of fresh air at city hall on an issue where all the council members and the city attorney agreed: that selling cigarettes to minors needs to stop. But the consensus on how to do it was a long time coming.

Deborah Kelly of the American Lung Association spent two years in meetings with stakeholders to draft the law.

Kelly : In some ways it was a situation of death by stakeholders group but we did persevere, and the ordinance that has been presented to city council today is very strong.

All stores that sell tobacco will have to pay $163 a year for a license. This money won’t go into city coffers, it'll pay for six police sting operations a year to catch retailers who sell cigarettes to youth under 18. A first offense means the store's license is suspended, four violations will mean the license is revoked. Statistics show 80% of smokers start before the age of 18.

Alison St John, KPBS News.

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