Controlling tobacco sales: Dickinson leaders seek to increase control by creating licenseDickinson leaders want more control over tobacco sales in the city.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson leaders want more control over tobacco sales in the city.
The city grants authority to sell tobacco products, but because it is authority and not an actual license, it is not something that can be revoked, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.
“The retail interest in tobacco is becoming more prevalent and so our response needs to be adequate,” he said.
Dickinson commissioners agreed to create an ordinance calling for a license to sell tobacco during a July 23 meeting. The ordinance needs second approval.
The Southwest District Health Unit, which performs tobacco law compliance checks, has been pushing for a stronger ordinance to stop the sale of tobacco to those younger than 18, said Tammy Hovet, SWDHU tobacco coordinator.
Many retailers don’t ask for identification when the unit performs compliance checks, she said.
The last compliance check in Dickinson took place in January and six of 17 businesses sold to minors, Hovet said.
“If we license these, we’d have more control over what does get sold and we’d have more control over the operators, which then means we’d have more control over the buyers,” Kessel said.
The highest penalty for selling tobacco products to a minor is a $500 fine and possible suspension, according to Dickinson city code. The fine for the first offense for an employee selling to a minor is $50, with all subsequent violations within two years costing $150. The retailer receives a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for a second within two years and $500 for all offenses within two years after that.
All tobacco offenses are noncriminal, according to municipal code.
A minor between 14 and 17 caught possessing or using tobacco products can face a $100 fine. Those buying tobacco for a minor face the same penalties as a retailer.
If the Dickinson Police Department catches a minor using or possessing tobacco products, they are cited and sent to juvenile court, Capt. Dave Wilkie said.
“It will give us another tool to use to enforce (tobacco laws),” he said of the proposed ordinance. “I think that it will give the business owner something to think about.”
When a business is found to be in noncompliance, SWDHU sends letters to the business, the City Commission, DPD, Stark County state’s attorney and the North Dakota attorney general.
“Any accountability would be a great start of a solution,” Hovet said. “The education compliance checks warning letters are a good start at stopping the sale of cigarettes, but to have them be held accountable would be a great part of a solution.”
The public will have a chance to comment on the issue at the City Commission meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall, 99 Second St. E.