An undercover check using teenage volunteers found that about 16 percent of retail stores in Snohomish County will sell tobacco to minors, according to a statement from the Snohomish Health District .
Of course, that means 84 percent of the 54 stores targeted in the check turned the teens down. But the small sample was slightly more relaxed about the law than last year’s; the 2008 compliance rate was pegged at 85 percent.
Health district officials estimate that one in every five Snohomish County high school students is a smoker.
“Community businesses are doing the right thing when they refuse to sell tobacco products to minors,” said Gary M. Goldbaum, head of the health district. “Addiction to tobacco products often starts during adolescence. People pay a steep price for this addiction, with long-term illness and shortened lives. If we want healthier communities, we must keep young people from getting hooked on nicotine.”
Here’s what happens when retailers sell tobacco to minors, from a health department statement:
“Clerks who sell tobacco to minors can be fined $50 for a first offense. The business owner is fined $100 for a first sale to a minor, $300 for a second one, and $1000 for a third plus a six-month suspension of the store’s tobacco license. A fourth illegal sale within two years will cost the retailer $1500 and a one-year license suspension. Further violations result in the permanent cancellation of the store’s tobacco license.
“For more information about the Tobacco Prevention and Control program or to report tobacco sales violations, call 425.339.8631 or visit www.snohd.org.”