Tobacco Retailer Licensing: Rural California Poll

In March 2008, the Center commissioned a survey of rural and small town voters in California to determine their level of support for a local tobacco retailer license and to identify unique challenges to getting an ordinance adopted in rural communities. The survey results demonstrate strong support for a licensing ordinance with 78% of rural voters supporting a local licensing ordinance. In addition, 66% feel that a fee of $200 a year for the license is either “too low” or “about right” and 91% agree that a store owner who repeatedly sells cigarettes to minors should no longer have the right to sell cigarettes. This strong support for a licensing ordinance challenges the notion that rural residents would be less receptive to accept government regulation of store owners to prevent tobacco sales to minors.

This poll also helped to identify the strongest arguments to use in support of a licensing ordinance. The arguments that were rated as most important are: (1) There is no more effective way to improve the health of the community than through reducing smoking, especially among teens; (2) These licensing laws really work because communities that have adopted a licensing ordinance have seen sales of cigarettes to minors decrease; and (3) A licensing ordinance sends the message that smoking is not okay for minors and that the community is not going to allow it.

The statewide survey was conducted in three different regions in California (Central Valley, Sierra and Northern). An equal number (315) of voters were surveyed in each region. There was strong support in all regions, but support was especially high in the Central Valley region. In the Central Valley region, 83% of voters surveyed support a licensing ordinance compared to 76% in the Sierra region and 75% in the Northern region. Summary of Key Findings documents and survey results are available for each region.

The survey also included several questions about secondhand smoke policies aimed at restricting smoking in housing and public areas.