01/12/2010: "SJC Tobacco Vendor Compliance Improves!"
By Martha Sharon
Decreasing access to tobacco is a key strategy to prevent underage youth from starting tobacco use. We know that if youth do not start to use it by age 18, they probably will not start.
In order to monitor the issue of sales to minors in stores, the state conducts compliance checks.
A non-resident youth is trained to enter stores and ask for tobacco, using their own state ID. They are accompanied by an adult, who tickets the store clerk and owner if a sale is made. Each time a store sells, more checks are made, and fines increase: if three sales are made within a two year period, the store loses its license to sell tobacco for six months.
The most recent tobacco vendor compliance check in SJC is a great improvement from previous checks: only one store sold tobacco to the minor subject, out of fourteen stores checked. That means San Juan County has a 7% non-compliance rate to state laws which prohibit sales of tobacco to minors, for this check; kudos to all the participating vendors! This is closer to our goal of ZERO tobacco sales to minors.
The owner of the store that sold said that the clerk was distracted; when they checked the minor’s driver’s license, they did not figure correctly that the youth was under 18. The owner said that he terminated that employee, in response to the action.
What a shame that a person had to lose their job in these hard times, especially since there is no math required to check an id! All state identification cards for minors under 18 are read in the vertical orientation (with the short end of the card up). The ID card for those over 18 is read in the horizontal orientation. This information is given to all vendors, but given all that they must read, may get overlooked.
This was unfortunately, an extra check that was mandated by the state Tobacco Prevention and Control Program for our county, because we have carried a 20% non-compliance rate. For any county that has such a high rate, we must use our tobacco prevention grant funds to do more checks. $1500 was used for this activity, which could have been used for school programs.
There will be more compliance checks in San Juan County, in the coming months. Vendors and clerks, we support your efforts to prevent youth access to tobacco. Keep up the good work! It is not overstated to say that you may be saving a life, financial hardship from addiction to the most addictive substance there is, and pollution from cigarette butts, the most common world-wide pollution.
For more information, see http://www.doh.wa.gov/TOBACCO.
(Martha Sharon, PHN, is the SJC coordinator for the County Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.)