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Most local retailers snuff tobacco sales to minors

86% of Snohomish County stores make a healthy choice

SNOHOMISH COUNTY --- The good news is that 86% of retail stores in Snohomish County refuse to sell tobacco products to minors, according to public health officials. So far in 2002, random checks of 64 stores showed that most clerks ask youth for proof of age.

“Most adults who are addicted to tobacco products became addicted while young teenagers. Many of them will pay the price for this addiction with long-term illness and a shortened life,” said M. Ward Hinds, MD, MPH, head of Snohomish Health District. “We commend our local store owners for making tobacco sales responsibly and lawfully,” he said. “Helping to keep young people from getting hooked on nicotine is making a healthy choice.”

The Health District’s Snohomish County Youth Risk Behavior Study (1999) showed that 20 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 smoke cigarettes regularly. Ten percent of the same student group were able to buy cigarettes even though they were under the legal age to make such purchases.

For eight years the Health District’s Tobacco Prevention Program has worked with Washington State Liquor Control Board in checking retail stores for compliance. The all-time low for violations was 4.3 percent in 2001. The joint venture includes a strong educational component and technical assistance to store owners and their clerks.

Clerks who sell tobacco to minors can be fined $50 for a first offense, and the store owner can be fined $100. Repeat offenses can cost up to $1000 in fines and suspension of the store’s tobacco license.

For more information about the Tobacco Prevention Program or to report tobacco sales violations, call 425.339.8632. To see a list of compliant and noncompliant retailers, go to www.snohd.org/comhealth/comp02.html.

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.

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