Daly City youth work to snuff out smoking 

Every time she sees her father smoking, 15-year-old Jill de Leon tells him he’s going to die.

The Oceana High School freshman from Daly City is part of a youth movement in northern San Mateo County pushing a tobacco retail-licensing fee in the county’s largest city in an effort to stymie underage smoking.

"It’s the only way I know how to get through to him," said de Leon, a member of the Stay Safe Youth Coalition of Asian-American Recovery Services, a nonprofit program for prevention, treatment and recovery.

Their effort has received support from the Jefferson Union High School District, but Daly City officials are looking into how such a fee has been enforced in cities and counties that have adopted the ordinance.

Tobacco-selling businesses in Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Millbrae, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo all must pay a $35 fee already, but that’s orchestrated through the county and rarely enforced, youth officials said. By strengthening the ordinance and increasing the fee, funds for strong enforcement could be generated, advocates said.

While Daly City officials recognize and agree with the cause — implementing a licensing fee on retailers selling tobacco products to cut down on kids buying cigarettes and other products — they don’t want to take on an obligation they can’t enforce, police Chief Gary McClane said, at a March 5 study session.

At the session, Mayor Maggie Gomez asked city staff to look at how other cities and counties have implemented a several hundred-dollar fee for retailers.

The idea goes over in the business world like a lead balloon because if enforcement is questionable, why should some businesses pay it when others can’t or won’t, said Marian Mann, the former president of the now-defunct Daly City Mission Merchants Association.

"Many, many, many of the businesses would support it if it were totally enforceable," Mann said. "When you look it, there’s so many ways to get around it."

City staff will look at tobacco retail-licensing fees in Berkeley, Contra Costa County, Elk Grove, the city and county of Sacramento, San Luis Obispo and Pasadena. According to statistics provided by the Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing, Berkeley’s rate of illegal tobacco sales dropped 32.2 percent to 5.8 percent after it adopted a $300 annual fee per business in 2002.

"We’re not saying ‘no’ to it, but we’re looking into what programs they have," Gomez said. "It’s a good idea but at the same time it’s labor intensive and costly."

dsmith@examiner.com

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