PACIFIC COUNTY - This past December, Pacific County staff and two youth volunteers completed compliance checks of tobacco retailers in Pacific County.

During the recent checks, seven of the 10 establishments that were visited complied with Washington state law and did not sell tobacco to the underage youth volunteers. These businesses included: Johnson Arco and One-Stop Market, Chinook Country Store, Ilwaco Market, Pioneer Market and Deli, Jack's Country Store, Sid's Super Market, and Seaview One Stop.

The three establishments in the county that sold tobacco products to the underage youth included: Okie's Select Market in Naselle, Okie's Thriftway in Ocean Park, and Short Stop Store-N-Deli in Seaview. These establishments were cited for selling tobacco to underage youth and have been reported to the Liquor Control Board.

As stated by Melissa Sexton, "It would be wonderful if we could report 100 percent compliance on a regular basis, but we are pleased that most of our establishments do not sell tobacco to underage youth. Sexton reminds local retailers, "It is important to take the time and check ID's thoroughly and refuse to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 years of age. When retailers refuse the sale, they are showing that they care about the youth of our community and that they are committed to helping young people live healthy productive lives."

Smoking cigarettes or chewing spit tobacco at a young age can affect the developing adolescent brain, increase the likelihood of nicotine addiction and increase lung and heart related illnesses including heart disease, asthma, lung cancer and emphysema. In addition, teens that use these products are also less physically fit and are at risk for engaging in other risky behaviors like alcohol use, violence, early sexual behavior, and illicit drug use.

Tobacco Retailer Compliance Checks are just one piece of a broader tobacco prevention program. The program's primary focus is to prevent youth from ever starting to use tobacco. Other components of the program include: TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) clubs at local schools, community education about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, promotion of the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line and working with other community partners/volunteers to engage them in tobacco prevention activities.

Federal law requires all 50 states to do random tobacco compliance checks annually. Pacific County is contracted each year to conduct these types of checks and to educate tobacco retail owners and managers. Local youth volunteers ages 14 to 17 years old attend a mandated training, including completing 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. Program staff accompany the youth during the checks and provide immediate feedback to the clerk following the check. A first-time offense results in a $100 fine for the retailers and a $50 fine for the clerk. Repeat offenders are fined up to $1,000 dollars and may have their license to sell tobacco products suspended. Retailers who refuse to sell tobacco to minors are congratulated and given a certificate. "Our intention is not to get our local retailers into trouble, rather to partner with retailers to assure we limit youth access to tobacco."

For more information on the tobacco prevention program, please contact Sexton at 875-9343 or 642-9349.

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