A long used tactic of the tobacco industry to recruit new and retain existing customers is through price reduction methods including the distribution of free and low cost tobacco products (cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products) called sampling or non-sale distribution.

Two laws (California Health and Safety Code 118950 and Food & Drug Administration Law Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act) prohibits the sampling of tobacco products, but there are exceptions to these rules and tobacco companies take full advantage of these loopholes. Tobacco companies also hands out coupons, gift certificate, and other rebate offers to reduce the price of their products.

No communities in San Diego County fully restricts sampling of tobacco products.

Only two cities in California have local policies restricting these types of practices.

Coupon regulations –  CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 118950

(b) It is unlawful for any person, agent, or employee of a person in the business of selling or distributing smokeless tobacco or cigarettes from engaging in the nonsale distribution of
any smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to any person in any public building, park or playground, or on any public sidewalk, street, or other public grounds, or on any private property that is open to the general public.

(c) For purposes of this section: (1) “Nonsale distribution” means to give smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to the general public at no cost, or at nominal cost, or to give coupons, coupon offers, or rebate offers for smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to the general public at no cost or at nominal cost. Distribution of tobacco products, coupons, coupon offers, or rebate offers in connection with the sale of another item, including tobacco products, cigarette lighters, magazines, or newspapers shall not constitute nonsale distribution


Cigarette use is slowly becoming less visible, but other kinds of tobacco products, like snus, are starting to take their place, especially among younger people. Samples of these Alternative Tobacco Products are being given out at local bars and nightclubs.

How You Can Help

  • Follow the Take Action steps to let your local government representative know you support stricter regulation of the tobacco industry in your community and support stopping the distribution of free or low cost tobacco products to the young adult populations. Find your local representative here. Ask your friends, family, co-workers, church groups or club to join you.
  • If you visit a San Diego bar or nightclub and witness a tobacco company representative giving out free or low-cost tobacco products, take note of what is happening and contact the American Lung Association in California at 619-683-7514
  • Write a letter to the editor in response to something in the newspaper. Keep your response short and to the point. Letters to the editor are read by many and can make a difference.
  • Join the SmokeFreeSanDiego Team
  • Like us on Facebook to see what is going on in San Diego.
  • Contact the American Lung Association in California at 619-683-7514 or lisa.archibald@lung.org  to learn more about how you can help.

Resources for Policy Makers

Communities are taking action by adopting policies that restrict the tobacco companies for giving out free or low-coast sample of their deadly products. The cities of Chico and San Francisco have adopted the strongest laws. Learn more at The Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing: Sampling

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