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California Awards Millions In Grants Aimed At Stopping Tobacco Sales To Kids

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

Yummy gum, lemon twist, butterscotch and cinnamon roll are just a few of the flavors on the shelf at Twisted Smoke Shop in East Sacramento.

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

The Sacramento region is getting about $1.5 million to try to keep tobacco products away from kids. 

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra says tobacco use by kids is at its lowest level today than it's ever been before.

"But at the same time, those gains are threatened by the fact that today's tobacco products don't even look like the tobacco that we saw in the previous generation," says Becerra. "They are now liquid in form in too many cases. It's the vaping that goes on, it's the e-cigarettes that we see and it's now also the flavored tobacco."

Today, Becerra announced $37.5 million in state grants which are going to 71 entities throughout the state, including the police departments in Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Stockton and Rocklin, and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office.

Los Angeles is getting the biggest share — more than $5.5 million. 

"While we may not be receiving the funding the tobacco manufacturers spend on selling their products," says Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, "we're going to be very efficient and creative and innovative as we reach out to assure that our kids aren't exposed in the way we've described."

The grants to more than 70 entities throughout the state will pay for things such as undercover sting operations, tobacco retail license inspections, retailer training programs and sign installation.

"Our kids are up against a great deal of peer pressure and they see a lot of very slick advertising," says Becerra. "Tobacco companies spend more in a day and a half than the entire amount of funding we're going to provide to all these communities throughout the state of California, to the tune of $37.5 million."

The money comes from Proposition 56, which was approved by voters in 2016 and raised the cigarette tax by $2 a pack.

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