Los Angeles/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 22, 2024
Five Thousand Oaks Businesses Cited for Selling Tobacco to Minors in Sting OperationSource: Google Street View

A sting operation in the City of Thousand Oaks has caught five businesses red-handed for selling tobacco products to minors. On June 18, 2024, an underaged decoy, supervised by the Thousand Oaks Directed Enforcement Unit (DEU) and the Ventura County Public Health Tobacco Education and Prevention Program, entered twenty local stores seeking to purchase tobacco. According to a news release, the minor, dressed conservatively and having provided honest responses to any questions, managed to buy tobacco from five establishments—a sobering reminder of the ease with which laws can be subverted.

The operation revealed the complicity of businesses in five locations, including well-known Vons grocery and a couple of Mobil Gas Stations, in enabling underage tobacco consumption. Conducting the sting, officials aimed to ensure compliance with laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to youth under age 18. The cited clerks, caught in the act by deputies, now face fines starting at $200 and potential further disciplinary measures against their employers' licensing by the California Department of Public Health.

Ventura County Public Health seems determined to snuff out this illegal practice by combining enforcement with education. Apart from issuing citations, they have been offering informational sessions on the current laws surrounding tobacco sales. As these efforts unfold, they extend a lifeline to those wishing to quit. "Ventura County Public Health offers a FREE “Call It Quits” stop smoking classes!", the release noted, marking a commitment to both prevention and remedy.

The DEU and Ventura County Public Health show no signs of relinquishing their vigilance. Staying true to the cause, they call upon the community for support, offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charge against violators, with assurances of anonymity to tipsters. Reporting suspicious activity can be done by contacting the sheriff’s office at 805-371-8338 or through Ventura County Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477). In a statement received by Senior Deputy Jonathan San Jose, "DEU will continue to work with Ventura County Public Health and other organizations to educate and enforce underage tobacco sales."