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January 09, 2020

Philly health department busts 149 businesses for selling tobacco to minors

The city suspended the 2020 permits of various shops, cutting off their sales for the year

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced that 149 city stores caught illegally selling tobacco to minors will not be allowed to renew their 2020 sales permits.

The list of busted businesses released Wednesday accounts for 6% of the city’s 2,600 tobacco retailers. It includes places like convenience stores, vape shops, laundromats, gas stations, restaurants, and hookah bars. 

If the businesses were ticketed for selling to minors at least three times in the past two years, their licenses are now suspended. 

In their statement, the city health officials also mentioned that many of the stores losing permits are concentrated in “poor, minority neighborhoods, in North, West, and Southwest Philadelphia,” and included the following map demonstrating where busts occurred. 

To catch retailers making illegal sales to minors, the city sent teenagers into stores to try to buy tobacco products like cigarettes or e-cigarettes. 

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, "Stores that repeatedly sell tobacco products to kids are a clear danger to our neighborhoods. Today's announcement shows that we’re taking this danger seriously and protecting Philadelphia’s kids."

The shops were warned of their permit suspensions "via a mailing in five languages" that explained the law and resulting loss of privilege for breaking it. 

In 2016, there was a change to tobacco regulations due to attempts to lower the city’s rate of smoking, which is the highest smoking rate of any major city in the US, at 23%.

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