Northwest NEWS

January 22,2001


Teens find it difficult to buy tobacco in King County

Recently, King County Public Health announced that retailers continue to shine in their ability to refuse tobacco to kids.
   Countywide, underage teens attempting to buy tobacco were turned down in 93 percent of the retailers checked throughout last year.
   This rate marks a significant jump in the already-excellent 90 percent compliance rate for 1999, and it becomes the unprecedented fourth consecutive year in which King County retailers topped 90 percent.
   "Preventing our youth from getting hooked on tobacco is an important part of keeping our community health, both now and in the future," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "Our Tobacco Prevention Program has done a fantastic job in educating our local retailers, and making sure that they comply with the law."
   "We are serious about keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health - Seattle & King County. "If we can keep our children from becoming addicted to tobacco before the age of 18, they likely will never start."
   "This is just one of several important strategies of Public Health's comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Program aimed at reducing youth and adult consumption of tobacco," added Plough.
   The consequences for selling tobacco to minors are serious for retailers and clerks alike. For the first offense, clerks are fined $50 and the retailer $100. Repeat offenders can expect a fine up to $1000 and/or suspension of their cigarette license.
   King County cities that were less than 90 percent compliant will be focused on in 2001 to assure that retailers are not selling tobacco to kids. The cities of Black Diamond, Duvall, Enumclaw, Fall City, and Hobart should expect more retailer compliance checks during 2001.
   In addition to compliance checks, Public Health educates merchants by providing informational packets and technical assistance in helping them comply with the laws and regulations regarding tobacco sales.
   The Tobacco Prevention Program encourages individuals who observe a retailer selling tobacco products to a minor to contact the program at (206) 296-7613 and file a confidential complaint. Retailers are also encouraged to call the Tobacco Prevention Program if they would like information, training or have any other questions about the laws and regulations regarding selling tobacco.
   Additional information on the Tobacco Prevention Program, including statistics for year 2000 compliance checks conducted by Public Health, is available online at