149 Philly stores lose permits to sell cigarettes under crackdown of sales to minors

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has pulled cigarette sale permits from 149 stores — the first enforcement action under beefed-up rules to prevent tobacco sales to minors.

Health Commissioner Tom Farley said the stores were caught selling cigarettes to teenagers under 18 three or more times in the last two years, so their applications to continue selling cigarettes this year were denied.

Philadelphia has more tobacco outlets than other large cities — 2,600 still have permits. Farley said one of the goals of the new permits rules is to reduce the concentration “in low-income, minority neighborhoods.” 

“We don't think the children in those neighborhoods should be getting access to tobacco when kids in wealthy neighborhoods are not getting marketed to,” he argued.

Selling to minors has long been illegal, but the Board of Health boosted the consequences in 2017 from a simple citation to permit revocation for repeated violations. Some City Council members, who initially applauded the move, tried to stop it after convenience store owners complained. Ultimately, the board prevailed. 

Farley said the health consequences of cigarette sales to minors are hard to deny.

“Smoking is the leading underlying cause of death in Philadelphia, causing an estimated 3,500 deaths (annually) from diseases like cancer and heart disease and stroke,” he added, “and 80 percent of smokers start under the age of 18, so it's particularly important for us to protect children from marketing and tobacco products.

“I hope that stores that still have tobacco sales permits take this as a warning and a message they should not sell to children.”