King County Public Health cites eight Kent retailers for selling tobacco to minors

Eight Kent retailers were recently busted by King County Public Health officials for selling tobacco to minors under the age of 18.

Eight Kent retailers were recently busted by King County Public Health officials for selling tobacco to minors under the age of 18.

Volunteer underage teens were used to enter stores to try to purchase tobacco. Seventy-four retailers did not sell tobacco to the minors, according to a Thursday Public Health of Seattle & King County media release.

In Washington State, selling tobacco to a minor results in a fine for retailers of $100 for the first offense and retailers are educated about selling tobacco responsibly. The fine for a clerk who sold the tobacco is $50.

Repeat offenders are fined up to $1,500 and may have their license to sell tobacco products suspended. Retailers refusing to sell tobacco to minors are congratulated in person and given an information packet.

“We’ve made progress over the past 10 years in reducing the impact of tobacco addiction in our community, but we need to keep this good work going,” said Dr. David Fleming, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, in the media release. “As funding for proven tobacco prevention programs is eliminated statewide, the tobacco industry continues to find new ways to market products that appeal to kids.”

Overall, King County’s high retailer compliance rate has dropped over the past two years from 96 percent in 2009 to 89 percent in 2011.

“We’ve seen an increase in rates of selling to minors and Kent is one of the areas we’ve seen that,” said James Apa, spokesman for Public Health of Seattle & King County.

The Kent establishments cited include:

• Benson Smoke – 21006 108th Ave. S.E.

• Star Shell Food Mart – 23953 104th Ave. S.E.

• Discount Fuel – 1133 W. James St.

• Short Stop Market – 11701 Kent-Kangley Road

• Cigar Land – 13003 Kent-Kangley Road

• West Valley Pitstop – 6331 S. 212th St.

• East Hill AM-PM – 10402 S.E. 256th St.

• Smoke Time Plus – 222 South Washington Ave.

According to county health officials, the tobacco industry has responded to tougher federal regulations around the marketing and advertising of cigarettes with new tobacco products that are attractive to youth, such as dissolvable tobacco that closely resembles gum, candy and breath strips, and cigars, cigarillos and snus (teabag-like pouches of tobacco) in flavors such as peach, chocolate, strawberry and grape.

Sales of tobacco to teens are a high concern because most adult tobacco addictions start in youth; 90 percent of current smokers became addicted before they were 19 years old. Overall, about a third of all kids who become regular smokers before adulthood will eventually die from smoking. Tobacco use is the leading cause of death in King County, leading to 1,990 deaths per year and $343 million in medical care costs, lost productivity and other expenses, according to county health officials.

Retailer compliance checks are conducted throughout the year by Public Health and the Washington State Liquor Control Board as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to new federal laws around tobacco and cigarettes.

Anyone who witnesses a merchant or other adults providing tobacco to a minor is encouraged to call Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Program at 206-296-7613 to file a confidential complaint or text the information to 206-745-2548.

For more information about tobacco prevention, visit Public Health – Seattle & King County’s web site at www.kingcounty.gov/health/tobacco.

 


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