PACIFIC COUNTY - Pacific County Health Department youth volunteers recently completed countywide retailer tobacco compliance checks.

The rate of retailers who sold to the youth operatives fell from 23 percent in 2002, to 9 percent in 2003. Seven of 30 retailers checked in 2002 sold tobacco to local youth ranging in age from 14- to 17-years-old. This year only three of the 33 retailers checked sold to minors.

The health department expressed pleasure at the increase in awareness and enforcement of the tobacco access laws.

Pacific County Health Department, as one component of its comprehensive tobacco prevention program, has contracted with the State Department of Health to conduct regular retailer compliance checks.

Local youth volunteers, ages 14- to 17-years-old, attend a mandated training, as well as complete the necessary consents and release forms prior to their participation in the program.

The youth are not allowed to coerce or 'trick' the retailers into selling tobacco. If questioned, the youth must answer honestly any question regarding their age, and each has a valid Washington state driver's license or Washington state picture identification card. Health department staff accompany the youth during the checks and provide immediate feedback to the clerk following the check.

If there isn't a sale, the retailer is congratulated and given a certificate of appreciation. If a retailer does sell to a youth, a compliance check data form is forwarded to the Liquor Control Board for their processing. Follow up by the Liquor Control Board may include a recheck, written warning, or fines for either, or both, the owner and the clerk who was responsible for the sale.

Annually the health department provides all retailers licensed to sell tobacco an information packet including the required signage, tips on how to check ID, and other resources.

An adolescent behavioral risk survey conducted in local schools in 2002 found that smokeless tobacco use among Pacific County sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grade students was nearly triple the rate reported by students statewide. Students reporting smoking in the past 30 days varied some, but for all but 12th graders, the rate was higher than the State rate.

The health department is working with local youth and schools to develop a comprehensive tobacco prevention program with the primary focus to prevent youth from ever starting to use tobacco. They are also working to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, increase availability of cessation resources for people who want to quit, and engage the broader community in the tobacco prevention effort.

For more information, contact Kathy Spoor, Director at 875-9343 or 642-9349.

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