Report shows 93% of tobacco retailers passed underage sales check

(Radio Iowa) – The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) found 93-percent of retailers who sold tobacco refused to sell to an underage customer during checks by the division in the last fiscal year.

Meghan O’Brien, the deputy director of administration for ABD, says most of the 3,400 tobacco retailers are checked for compliance each year. “This is only the second time that the compliance rate has been this high, and I think the success of all our education programs and our partnerships are the reason whey we’ve been able to achieve this level of compliance,” O’Brien says.

The compliance rate hit 93-percent for the first time in 2010 and has been at 92-percent in three of the last five years. She says the division works with 193 local law enforcement partners and the Iowa State Patrol to conduct the random compliance checks. “They typically use youth in communities and the youth develop relationships with law enforcement — and that is how the compliance check is done,” O’Brien says.

Records show tobacco retailers in the mid 1990′s were selling tobacco to minors during half of the checks. ABD took over the tobacco enforcement in 2000 and created the Iowa Pledge program to educate retailers on how to stop sales to minors.

“We work really hard to create partnerships and do education rather than immediately go to the punitive side. We want to have a trust relationship with these retailers and we want to help them be successful and reduce the number of youth getting access to tobacco products,” according to O’Brien  Smoking is no longer allowed in many public places after the passage of the Smoke Free Air Act in 2008.

O’Brien says it’s a change that has also helped in preventing young people from smoking. “Youth growing up right now can’t remember a time when an ashtray was ever inside a restaurant,” O’Brien says. She says that’s one piece of the issue and they complement that with restricting the sale of tobacco and that helps reinforces that tobacco usage is not appropriate for youth. “So, I think the State of Iowa has done a tremendous job in overall tobacco control.”

Twenty-seven of the 99 counties had a 100-percent compliance rate. They are: Adams, Allamakee, Boone, Buchanan, Butler, Calhoun, Davis, Delaware, Floyd, Fremont, Guthrie, Hancock, Henry, Humboldt, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Monroe, Page, Plymouth, Sac, Taylor, Van Buren, Wayne, Winnebago, Worth.

See the full report here:Tobbacco compliance report PDF