The Snohomish County Health District is ramping up efforts to cut down on teen smoking. So this week, it’s seeking out stores that are selling tobacco products to minors.
The process is more like fishing. Health officials send a 17-year-old into a store to ask for cigarettes or chewing tobacco. About 1 in 10 stores make the sale.
The current compliance rate is 88.7 percent, up from 84 percent in the previous year. The all-time low rate for tobacco sales to minors was 4.3 percent in 2001 – 95.7 percent compliance.
The Washington State Department of Health selects a random sample of 50-70 Snohomish County retailers for local public health to check from January through June. Snohomish Health District’s Tobacco Prevention and Control staff checks and educates additional tobacco retailers throughout the year. Retailers also may get a visit from Washington State Liquor Control Board officers under a contract with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for tobacco compliance checks.
“Community businesses are doing the right thing when they refuse to sell tobacco products to minors,” said Gary M. Goldbaum, MD, MPH, head of Snohomish Health District. “Addiction to tobacco products often starts during adolescence and ends with long-term illness and shortened lives. If we want healthier communities, we must keep young people from getting hooked on nicotine.”
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