Fewer ND retailers sell tobacco to minors: 2 Dickinson stores fail compliance checksThe amount of retailers selling tobacco products to minors has dropped dramatically in the last 10-plus years, according to a recent North Dakota Department of Human Services compliance check.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
The amount of retailers selling tobacco products to minors has dropped dramatically in the last 10-plus years, according to a recent North Dakota Department of Human Services compliance check.
Prior to the turn of the millennium, compliance checks found that more than 30 percent of retailers sold tobacco products to a 15- or 16-year-old. But checks completed between July and September of last year showed that number had dropped to 9.3 percent, or 21 out of 227 retailers surveyed.
“We’ve significantly come down from there,” said Elizabeth Cunningham, research analyst with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
In Dickinson, the checks found two retailers sold to minors, she said.
The eastern half of the state had eight offenses while the western half had 13, Cunningham said. Six were in Ward County.
“It could just be that they weren’t paying attention this year or maybe they weren’t trained as much as they have been in the past,” Cunningham said.
The checks are done without the help of local law enforcement to complete a survey to obtain federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding, according to the press release. If non-compliance rates are above 20 percent, a state could potentially lose up to 40 percent of its block grant funding.
Six 15- and 16-year-olds, three male and three female at each age, were recruited to attempt to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products where juveniles their age are allowed to be, meaning no bars or tobacco shops.
They answer all questions honestly, Cunningham said. If a retailer would ask their age, the teen is supposed to give their actual age.
“It’s not a sting,” she said. “We want to know under normal circumstances whether or not a retailer would sell tobacco to an underage person.”
There were two purchases in Hettinger County, one in Mott and one in Regent.
The Southwest District Health Unit performs its own checks four times a year in Dickinson, Tobacco Prevention and Control Project Coordinator Tammy Hovet said. In the most recent round of checks, five businesses here sold to minors.
SWDHU checks a little differently than the Department of Human Services.
It uses 14- to 17-year-olds, the help of local law enforcement and a team member from SWDHU, Hovet said.
Participants are not allowed to try to look older by changing their clothes and putting on more makeup, she said.
“There’s a whole criteria and training that they do before they do compliance checks,” she said.
The checks were done after a city ordinance passed this summer created a municipal tobacco license, which allows the Dickinson Police Department to issue a citation to the employee and the business selling to minors, she said. It can also suspend the businesses tobacco license for a day as punishment.
This has not happened yet, City Attorney Matt Kolling said.
The business citations and any suspensions must go through the City Commission, Hovet said. The businesses have been notified.
The complete list will be made public once the process is complete, she said.