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Opinion: Lassen Co. Public Health’s Tobacco Use Reduction Program and the Lee Law

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

leelawLassen County Public Health’s Tobacco Use Reduction Program is always working towards making Lassen County a tobacco and smoke-free environment. Currently, our focus is on providing education and working with local governance to strengthen the Lee Law to include businesses licensed to sell tobacco.

The Lee Law, California Business and Professions Code 25612.5, requires off-sale alcohol retailers to abide by a set of public health and safety standards to protect surrounding neighborhood and communities from problems associated with alcohol sales.

In California retailers are permitted to only have 33% of their windows covered by advertisements of any type. This law is in place to protect our youth from over exposure to alcohol products. Also, window signage must be placed so that law enforcement personnel can have a clear and unobstructed view of the interior of the store, including the cash registers.

Not only is the Lee Law protecting our youth from over exposure to dangerous advertising, but it also protects the store and customer from any incidents that could occur if all the windows were covered.

Where did this law originate? In the early 1990’s civil unrest broke out in South Central Los Angeles following the Rodney King Trial. As a result of the rioting, 1,100 buildings were burned down (including 200 liquor stores), 55 people were killed, and 1,000 people were injured. Karen Bass and Sylvia Castillo led a campaign to prevent many of the liquor stores from being rebuilt, reform the practices of those that remained, and promoted economic growth. Barbara Lee, state assemblywomen, worked with this group to enact the Lee Law reforms, for her efforts the law was named after her.

So, is the Lee Law enforced in Lassen County? The answer is no. Currently, the policy is barely known to the County and city building officials. They said that this law is difficult to enforce because of the lack of personnel to take the lead on signage policies. Many of our convenience store windows are littered with cigarette or alcohol ads, sometimes at eye level of children walking into a store with their parents.

Our local Tobacco Program would like to strengthen the Lee Law locally to address three critical community problems:

  • Youth exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and junk food advertising increases the risk of youth alcohol, tobacco, and junk food consumption and problems associated with those risks.
  • Large numbers of window signs on liquor stores contribute to crime, violence, neighborhood blight and other nuisance activities, particularly when they block a clear view into the stores.
  • Improve overall appearance of Susanville by implementing stricter policies on storefront advertising and having them be enforced. Improve the state policy of 33% allowed retail window coverage to 15%.

We want to make Lassen County safe for our future generations. Our region is known to have high rates of tobacco use. By cleaning up our storefront advertising we can help protect our youth from overexposure to alcohol, tobacco, and junk food.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by guest authors and those providing opinions on SusanvilleStuff are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Couso Technology and Design, SusanvilleStuff or any of our employees.

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