PACIFIC COUNTY - Four Pacific County Health Department youth volunteers recently participated in countywide retailer tobacco compliance checks. During this round of checks, three of the 25 establishments checked sold tobacco to undercover youth operatives. Overall in 2006, six of 59 retailers checked sold to youth operatives. This represents a 10-percent non-compliance rate so far in 2006, which is about that same as our overall rate in 2005.

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 age 15 to 16 attend a mandated training, as well as complete the necessary consent 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 we congratulate the retailer and provide 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.

"Our intention is not to get our local retailers into trouble, rather to partner with retailers to assure we limit youth access to tobacco."

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. Health Department staff is also available to assist with training clerks if requested.

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.

For more information on the tobacco program or to get involved in the Tobacco Free Coalition of Pacific County, please contact Katie Lindstrom at 360-875-9343 or 642-9349.

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