Four tobacco retailers in town, specifically, Super Pumper (Frankie’s) on West Villard, Cenex on Museum Drive, Vapes on West Villard and Lucky’s Tesoro off 12th Street, have failed random tobacco compliance checks.

The audits, conducted on August 16, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., are run in order to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors.

According to Brandon Stockie, an officer at the Dickinson Police Department, inclined minors are trained by the Southwestern District Health Unit to enter tobacco retailers and attempt to buy cigarettes, cigars or other tobacco products. If the minors are successful in acquiring tobacco products, a waiting officer will issue a citation to the clerk that provided the tobacco and the retailer, itself, will be notified of the failure to comply.

In addition to civil monetary penalties which range from $0-$10,000, depending upon the retailer’s history of violations among other factors, the business may also be issued a “no-tobacco-sale order” which “prohibit the sale of tobacco products at that outlet,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This penalty only occurs after “at least five violations...over a 36-month period at a particular outlet.”

The FDA recommends that retailers take, “effective steps to prevent violations of the minimum age requirements for the sale of tobacco products.” These steps include, “adopting and enforcing a written policy against sales to minors, informing its employees of all applicable laws, establishing disciplinary sanctions for employee noncompliance [and] requiring its employees to verify age by way of photographic identification or electronic scanning device.”

The rate of Dickinson minors being caught with tobacco “has gone up a lot,” Officer Stockie told The Press, making the initiative all the more imperative.

During the 2017-18 school year, over 43 highschool students in Dickinson were caught with tobacco: that number was increased to 54 in 2019. The same trend can be found in middle school students as well with nine juveniles caught between 2017-18 and 13 caught in 2019.

Over 1000 adults in North Dakota die each year from smoking, alone, according to data by TobaccoFreeKids.org, making smoking more deadly “than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.” Illnesses related to smoking cost the state approximately $326 million in health costs. To make matters even more alarming, over 200 North Dakota citizens under the age of 18 become new smokers each year. These numbers only pertain to cigarette smokers and does not include data on smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe smoking or the exponentially growing trend of e-cigarettes use.

Nationally, more than 480,000 people die from cigarette smoke or exposure from secondhand smoke annually in the United States.