Minors thwarted in search to buy tobacco

Moffat County stores score 100 percent in compliance check

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For the second consecutive year, Moffat County merchants have been found to be 100 percent compliant in refusing to sell tobacco products to minors.

The Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, with support from the Craig Police Department, conducted tobacco compliance checks on June 18.

The project involved having a minor attempt to purchase tobacco from eight Craig businesses.

Each of the establishments refused the sale after the minor could not present proper identification.

"We do this one to two times a year," said Kent Nielson, coalition senior coordinator. "Basically, we try to target all the ones that sell tobacco, those that have a high-use travel base where a lot of youths go in and shop at."

The coalition is a tri-county substance abuse organization, which serves Grand, Routt and Moffat counties. The organization's goal is to provide a framework for the community to create and promote positive lifestyles as an alternative to substance abuse.

Nielson said the compliance operations help businesses know that it is against the law to sell tobacco to minors.

"It also, hopefully, might help some kids from starting to use tobacco, which is one of the most addictive drugs there is," Nielson said. According to the Surgeon General's Report on Youth and Tobacco use, 90 percent of all smokers begin before the age of 19 and more than half begin before the age of 14. Additionally, while all states have laws that make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under age 18, 39 percent of high school students under that age, who smoke report they usually buy cigarettes in a store. Seventy-eight percent report not being asked for proof of age when they buy cigarettes in a store. The project, which started in 1997, aims to determine that businesses are or are not in compliance, and then notify the owners. It also distributes information, which includes facts on the effects of tobacco on minors, to each of the establishments it targets.

The compliance checks are done in an effort to educate and create a community prevention system.

Nielson said the coalition efforts have paid off.

"Last year the Colorado Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division came into Moffat County and actually did tobacco stings," Nielson said. "And Moffat County was the only county, to date, that was 100 percent compliant. We're the only county in the state that was like that.

"So we feel like our efforts and education in our tobacco compliance checks have actually saved some establishments from the possibility of getting a citation, which saved them at least $200 in fines and penalties."

Craig Police Captain Jerry Delong said he was pleased with the outcome of the compliance checks.

"I think the results are fantastic," Delong said. "Two years in row Moffat County has come out in 100 percent compliance. That shows the efforts of the local businesses, and the efforts that Grand Futures and the Craig Police Department are putting into this."

Marilyn Hehr, the program coordinator of tobacco control in Moffat and Routt counties, said she was also satisfied with the results.

"It's very exciting," Hehr said. "I'm very proud of all the retailers for complying with the state regulations. But we do have to continue to be vigilant in this."

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