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It takes a village: Few in SnoCo sell tobacco to minors


September 10, 2009

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. --- Random checks of 52 retail stores in Snohomish County show that 84 percent of them refuse to sell tobacco products to minors, say local public health officials. Last year’s compliance rate was 85 percent. The all-time low for violations was 4.3 percent in 2001.

"Community businesses are doing the right thing when they refuse to sell tobacco products to minors," said Gary M. Goldbaum, MD, MPH, head of Snohomish Health District. "Addiction to tobacco products often starts during adolescence. People pay a steep price for this addiction, with long-term illness and shortened lives," he said. "If we want healthier communities, we must keep young people from getting hooked on nicotine."

Despite significant progress, nearly one in five Snohomish County High School students smoke. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the nation and in Washington.

For 15 years the Snohomish Health District’s Tobacco Prevention and Control team has worked with the Washington State Liquor Control Board and youth volunteers to check retail stores for compliance with state laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. The teens participate with their parents’ consent. The joint venture includes a strong educational component and technical assistance to store owners and their clerks to ensure their understanding of the law. Tobacco retailers must post bright yellow warning signs at all points of sale.

Clerks who sell tobacco to minors can be fined $50 for a first offense. The business owner is fined $100 for a first sale to a minor, $300 for a second one, and $1000 for a third plus a six-month suspension of the store’s tobacco license. A fourth illegal sale within two years will cost the retailer $1500 and a one-year license suspension. Further violations result in the permanent cancellation of the store’s tobacco license.

For more information about the Tobacco Prevention and Control program or to report tobacco sales violations, call 425.339.8631 or visit

Celebrating 50 years of service to the county in 2009, the Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier Snohomish County through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. ###END###


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