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Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors Remain High

State Department of health

The number of retailers in Washington illegally selling tobacco to minors is high for the second year in a row. An annual report that tracks illegal sales shows about 15 percent of tobacco retailers sold tobacco to minors in 2013 – that’s about the same as it was in 2012. As recently as 2009 the rate was much lower, at about 9 percent. Currently clerks who sell tobacco to minors can be fined up to $100; retail owners can be  fined up to $1,500 and may have their license revoked up to five years.

Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman is concerned.  He suggest that stiffer fines may be needed, “fines really are a deterrent, and these fines certainly seem low, and as the Secretary of Health I will be looking at those over the next several months and I may ask the legislature to increase those fines

“It’s unacceptable that more than one in seven retailers in our state illegally sells tobacco to minors,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Stopping youth from buying tobacco is one of the best prevention tools we have. It only works when retailers follow the law. They must do better. The health of Washington’s youth is at stake.

If the rate of retailers selling tobacco to minors exceeds 20 percent, Washington could lose $13.5 million dollars in federal funding for drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention and treatment. While official youth checks determine the rate of illegal sales, anyone can report a violation on the state Liquor Control Board website.

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