Com­pli­ance checks find fewer county to­bacco sales to mi­nors

Cecil Whig - - & - By BRI­ANNA SHEA



— Two years after Maryland al­most lost fed­eral money be­cause of poor en­force­ment of laws pre­vent­ing the sale of to­bacco to mi­nors, com­pli­ance has im­proved in both the state and the county.

Dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Elk­ton Board of Com­mis­sion­ers last week, Jen­nifer Pad­gett, a com­mu­nity health ed­u­ca­tor with the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment, re­ported that dur­ing fis­cal year 2016, only 9.09 per­cent of stores checked in the county were non­com­pli­ant com­pared to 27.3 per­cent in fis­cal year 2014. At the state level, the non-com­pli­ance fig­ures dropped from more than 31 per­cent to just 13.8 per­cent, she said.

Last year’s com­pli­ance rates meant Maryland ex­ceeded the limit de­tailed in the Sy­nar Amend­ment, a fed­eral law that re­quires all states to con­duct an­nual, ran­dom in­spec­tions of min­i­mum to­bacco age sales and main­tain a vi­o­la­tion rate of less than 20 per­cent. Fail­ure to com­ply can put the state at risk of los­ing 40 per­cent of a fed­eral Sub­stance Abuse Pre­ven­tion and Treat­ment Block Grant.

In August, 11 stores were checked in the county and passed, Pad­gett re­ported. On Thurs­day, she noted there is a pos­si­bly more checks could be con­ducted dur­ing fis­cal year 2017.

Mean­while, Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment Lt. Carolyn Allen re­ported that four such com­pli­ance checks were con­ducted in Elk­ton this year. Only three busi­nesses sold out of the 18 that were vis­ited, she added.

Dur­ing a check, an un­der­cover of­fi­cer goes into the store with a mi­nor, with per­mis­sion from the child’s par­ents, and wit­nesses whether the cashier sells a to­bacco prod­uct or not, Allen said.

If the retailer sells to the mi­nor, a uni­formed of­fi­cer then writes a ci­ta­tion. If the retailer does not sell, a uni­formed of­fi­cer lets the retailer know they passed the ran­dom check, Allen said.

The first of­fense in­cludes a $300 fine, the sec­ond of­fense is $500 and sub­se­quent of­fenses are $750. Re­peat vi­o­la­tors meet with the Reg­u­la­tory En­force­ment Di­vi­sion of the Maryland Of­fice of the Comp­trol­ler, Allen said.

Allen noted that many re­tail­ers have reg­is­ters that are able to tell the pur­chaser’s age by typ­ing in his or her date of birth, pro­vid­ing fur­ther pro­tec­tions.

Pad­gett said the county health depart­ment ed­u­cates each store in the county that has a li­cense to sell to­bacco and trains them on ar­eas such as Sy­nar and ID tech­nol­ogy.

The county’s liquor board and health depart­ment also pro­vide re­tail training on top­ics such as how to check some­one’s ID card, what Sy­nar is and how county law en­force­ment con­ducts com­pli­ance checks. Re­tail­ers are also given lit­er­a­ture on how to cal­cu­late some­one’s age on the ID card as well as help­ful hints such as how to place to­bacco prod­ucts where cus­tomers can­not reach for the prod­uct them­selves.

Pad­gett noted that elec­tronic cig­a­rettes, known as e-cig­a­rettes, are now called elec­tronic ni­co­tine de­liv­ery sys­tems, and can­not be sold to those un­der 18 years old due to new Fed­eral Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions.

Fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, an Elk­ton res­i­dent said that if mi­nors want to re­trieve a to­bacco prod­uct, they can, not­ing he of­ten sees mi­nors smok­ing cig­a­rettes. He also asked what hap­pens to chil­dren who are caught with cig­a­rettes.

Elk­ton Po­lice Chief Matt Don­nelly said most mi­nors are given a to­bacco ci­ta­tion and must ap­pear in front of the Neigh­bor­hood Youth Panel, although the charges are usu­ally dis­missed.

The depart­ment par­tic­i­pates in the pro­gram about five times a year, he said, and of­fi­cers that par­tic­i­pate are cov­ered un­der the grant.

“If we get stores to stay in com­pli­ance and not sell to mi­nors that’s a good thing,” Don­nelly said. “And if we get a cou­ple of mi­nors to stop smok­ing as a re­sult after they go in front the Neigh­bor­hood Youth Panel, then I think it’s money well spent.”

Last year’s com­pli­ance checks found a de­creas­ing num­ber of stores that sold to­bacco to un­der­age pa­trons.

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