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Chapter 12.7. Tobacco Distribution   

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(a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares the following:

(1) Smoking is the single most important source of preventable disease and premature death in California.

(2) Smoking is responsible for one-quarter of all death caused by fire.

(3) Tobacco-related disease places a tremendous financial burden upon the persons with the disease, their families, the health care delivery system, and society as a whole.

(4) Despite laws in at least 44 states prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors, each day 3,000 children start using tobacco products in this nation. Children under the age of 18 consume 947 million packages of cigarettes in this country yearly.

(5) The earlier a child begins to use tobacco products, the more likely it is that the child will be unable to quit.

(6) More than 60 percent of all smokers begin smoking by the age of 14, and 90 percent begin by age 19.

(7) Use of smokeless tobacco products among minors in this state is increasing.

(8) Smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco is harmful to the health of individuals and may cause gum disease, mouth or oral cancers, increased tooth decay and leukoplakia.

(9) Tobacco product advertising and promotion are an important cause of tobacco use among children. More money is spent advertising and promoting tobacco products than any other consumer product.

(10) Distribution of tobacco product samples and coupons is a recognized source by which minors obtain tobacco products, beginning the addiction process.

(11) It is the intent of the Legislature that keeping children from beginning to use tobacco products in any form and encouraging all persons to quit tobacco use shall be among the highest priorities in disease prevention for the State of California.

(b) It is unlawful for any person, agent, or employee of a person in the business of selling or distributing smokeless tobacco or cigarettes from engaging in the nonsale distribution of any smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to any person in any public building, park or playground, or on any public sidewalk, street, or other public grounds.

(c) For purposes of this section:

(1) "Nonsale distribution" means to give smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to the general public at no cost, or at nominal cost, or to give coupons or rebate offers for smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to the general public at no cost or at nominal cost. Distribution of tobacco products or coupons or rebate offers in connection with the sale of another item, including tobacco products, cigarette lighters, magazines, or newspapers shall not constitute nonsale distribution.

(2) ''Smokeless tobacco" means (A) a loose or flat, compressed cake form of tobacco that may be chewed or held in the mouth or (B) a shredded, powdered, or pulverized form of tobacco that may be inhaled through the nostrils, chewed, or held in the mouth.

(3) "Public building, park, playground, sidewalk, street, or other public grounds'' means any structure or outdoor area which is owned, operated, or maintained by any public entity, including, but not limited to: city and county streets and sidewalks, parade grounds, fair grounds, public transportation facilities and terminals, public reception areas, public health facilities, public recreational facilities, and public office buildings.

(d) Any person who violates this section shall be liable for a civil penalty of not less than two hundred dollars ($200) for one act, five hundred dollars ($500) for two acts, and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each succeeding violation. Each distribution of a single package, coupon, or rebate offer to an individual member of the general public in violation of this section shall be considered a separate violation.

(e) Nothing contained in this section or any other provision of law shall invalidate an ordinance of, or be construed to prohibit the adoption of an ordinance by, a city or county regulating distribution of smokeless tobacco or cigarette samples within its boundaries which is more restrictive than this section. If this occurs, the more restrictive local ordinance shall control to the extent of any inconsistency between it and this section.

(f) This section shall not apply to any public building, park, playground, sidewalk, street, or other public grounds where minors are prohibited by law. This section also shall not apply to any public building, park, playground, sidewalk, street, or other public grounds leased for private functions where minors are denied access by a peace officer or licensed security guard on the premises.

(Added by Stats. 1991, Ch. 829, Sec. 1.)