California Attorney General Xavier Becerra last Thursday announced the 65 government agencies that will receive grants to fund programs aimed at reducing illegal tobacco sales — especially to minors — such as youth outreach and prevention programs, tobacco retail license inspections, training for law enforcement officers and more.

“Education and prevention programs are critical to fostering healthy communities that promote wellness and prosperity,” Becerra said in a press release last Thursday. “It is imperative that we continue to curb illegal youth tobacco sales, and these grants will aid our local communities in their preventative efforts.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office received $111,896 through the California Department of Justice’s 2018-2019 Proposition 56 Grant Program, which Deputy Ezequiel Pena said in an email will be used primarily to curb the sale of tobacco products to minors from licensed tobacco retailers.

“We will utilize educational and enforcement strategies to educate minors and retailers of the laws surrounding illegal tobacco sales,” Pena said.

An abundance of tobacco retailers in unincorporated county areas and lower cigarette prices than the state average may prove attractive to teenagers, Pena said, along with the availability of candy- and mint-flavored tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes known as “e-cigarettes,” as well as other nicotine vaporizers.

“Our school resource deputies have seen a tremendous increase in the use of tobacco products by students, particularly with e-cigarettes and vaping products,” Pena said. “However, these school resource deputies are currently not involved with any tobacco-related education, enforcement or outreach to the students and campus community.”

Over the next three years, the funds will be used to pay for school resource deputies to conduct tobacco-related enforcement, education and outreach in schools, Pena said, and to conduct general enforcement at student and youth events such as sporting events.

“Upon successful completion of this grant, we will be better able to assess the actual needs of our community and apply for additional funding as necessary,” Pena said.

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