PACIFIC COUNTY - Pacific County Health Department with the help of youth operatives recently completed county-wide retailer tobacco compliance checks. During this most recent round of checks, five retailers sold and 16 retailers did not sell to the youth operatives for a 24 percent non-compliance rate. The retailers who sold during this recent round of checks included: Jack's Country Store, Ilwaco Market, Minit Mart North Cove, Raymond Grocery and Deli and Ping Market. The rate of retailers who sell to the youth operatives has fallen every year since the inception of the compliance check program in 2001. During 2008 the Pacific County Health Department has completed a total of 40 checks with seven sales county-wide, for a 17.5 percent non-compliance rate.

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, roughly three to four rounds of checks per year. Local youth volunteers, age 14 to 17 years old, attend a mandated training and 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 to any questions 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 clerks following the check. According health department staff member, Melissa Sexton, "If there isn't a sale we congratulate the retailer and provide a certificate of appreciation. If a retailer sells to a youth, a compliance check data form is forwarded to the Liquor Control Board (LCB) for processing." Follow up by the LCB may include a re-check, written warning, or fines for the owner and/or the clerk who was responsible for the sale.

Sexton states, "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 information packets including the required signage, tips on how to check ID, and other resources. Health Department staff is 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 has varied some, but for all but 12th graders, the rate was higher than the state rate. "We have a lot of work to do to educate, support, and assist kids to not start using tobacco, or to quit if they have started to use," Sexton said.

Sexton continued, "We are working with local youth and schools to develop a comprehensive tobacco prevention program. Our primary focus is to prevent youth from ever starting to use tobacco. Our program is 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 on the tobacco program or if you are interested in a retailer education class please contact Melissa Sexton or Tara Finch in the Pacific County Health Department at 360-875-9343 or 642-9349.

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