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Five Kirkland stores caught selling tobacco to minors

Quality Dollars and Party Store, George's Eastside Shell, Bargain Beverages, Super Food Store and G Deli Food Mart are five Kirkland stores of 92 tobacco retailers that were caught selling tobacco to minors in Washington this year.

From January 1 through December 5 this year, King County officials cited retailers 92 times for an illegal sales rate of over 8 percent. This reflects a drop from the 12 percent rate in 2011, but elevated from the 6 percent average from 2006-2010. Statewide, tobacco sales to minors are at a ten-year high at 16 percent.

A listing by city of all 92 retailers who sold tobacco to minors is posted on the King County website.

“Underage access to tobacco fuels addiction and early death for King County’s children,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Almost 90 percent of adult smokers started in their teens, and one out of every three youth smokers will die early from smoking-caused disease.

According to Kathryn Ross of King County, the five Kirkland stores that sold to minors through November of 2012 have each been checked two or three times in the last five years with no other sales.

"In compliance checks, whether or not a clerk asks to see identification, is the biggest predictor of whether an illegal sale will take place," Ross said.  "Three of the five stores that sold in 2012 in Kirkland did not ask for identification."

Federal law requires that clerks ask for identification from anyone 27 and under attempting to purchase tobacco.

In Washington state, selling tobacco to a minor is prohibited by law, with a $100 fine and tobacco education for the retailer and a $50 fine for the clerk making the sale. Repeat offenders within two years are fined up to $1500 and may have their tobacco sales license revoked.

“The tobacco industry continues to aggressively pursue new smokers, including marketing products that appeal to kids. We need to continue working to counter tobacco addiction in our community,” said Scott Neal, Tobacco Prevention Program Manager for Public Health – Seattle & King County

In 2010 alone, the tobacco industry spent $80 million dollars in Washington state on marketing activities. In response to tougher federal regulations for marketing and advertising of cigarettes, the tobacco industry has created new products that appeal to youth, such as dissolvable tobacco that resembles gum, candy and breath-strips, mini-cigars and snus (teabag-like pouches of tobacco) in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry and grape.

Countywide, more than 15,000 students -- including one in four 12th graders -- use cigarettes or other tobacco products. Tobacco use remains among the leading causes of death in King County, leading to nearly 2,000 deaths per year and $343 million in medical care costs, lost productivity and other expenses.

Retailer compliance checks are conducted throughout the year by Public Health and the Washington State Liquor Control Board, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to federal laws around tobacco and cigarettes.

Working with local law enforcement, teens try to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products at King County retailers, some chosen randomly and others based on past violation history.

Anyone who witnesses a merchant or other adults providing tobacco to a minor is encouraged to call Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Program at 206-296-7613 to file a confidential complaint.

For more information about tobacco prevention, please visit Public Health - Seattle & King County’s web site at www.kingcounty.gov/health/tobacco.

 

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