WATSONVILLE — The City of Watsonville was awarded $567,880 in state grant funding from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to combat the illegal sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors.
The grants, $37.5 million in total, were distributed to 71 local entities throughout the state. They will fund operations, retailer training programs, the installation of signage, youth outreach, tobacco retail license inspections, training for sworn personnel, and other activities.
The Watsonville Police Department will be partnering with the Parks and Community Services Department and Pajaro Valley Prevention Student Assistance, Inc. to combat illegal tobacco use among minors.
The main goals are to identify and target problematic retailers of tobacco products, reduce illegal sales of tobacco products to minors, incorporate youth-led activities that will support tobacco education offered to middle and high school youth, implement education at an earlier age utilizing an age appropriate curriculum, create media awareness campaigns and install signs regarding tobacco related regulations at local parks and schools.
"Tobacco remains a very serious public health concern,” Becerra said. “These grants will provide additional tools to law enforcement to help educate kids about the dangers of smoking. The grants will also help local communities enforce laws against selling tobacco products to minors. These grants are an important step toward reducing illegal sales and building a healthier California.”
Proposition 56, the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, was approved by voters in November 2016. Effective April 2017, it raised the cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products. Prop. 56 specifically allocates $30 million of revenue to be distributed annually by the California Department of Justice to local law enforcement agencies for the support and hiring of peace officers for various activities, including investigations intended to reduce the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors.