Rise in tobacco sales to minors

Rise in tobacco sales to minors
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors is a constant challenge. While there are half the number of kids smoking today than there were a decade ago, the number of sales to minors is way up.

These stats are concerning to parents like Donnie Bell.

Parent Donnie Bell, Jr. said, "I just, I don't want her to become a smoker," about his daughter.

She is just a baby but he's already thinking about her future.

He continued, "Teach her good morals and she'll know what's right to do."

He knows he can only do so much. From there, Donnie has to rely on laws passed to protect the young.

Every year, the Liquor Control Board teams up with the state health department. They go undercover to make sure stores aren't selling alcohol or tobacco to those underage.

Fifty-two stings were launched across Benton and Franklin Counties.
Nearly a quarter ended up with a citation in Benton County, more than 15 percent in Franklin.

A clerk or a store can be fined for making a sale.

Citations included two in Richland, three in Kennewick and three in Pasco. We called every business cited, except one, which was closed.

Every company KEPR spoke with said they've since retrained staff to make sure every single person is carded no matter how old they look.

In fact, one store, went so far as to issue this statement. They say the clerk who sold the tobacco to a minor was fined by the state and every other staffer was retrained on the law. They wanted to be sure the same mistake doesn't happen twice.

The simple steps are a comfort to parents.

Donnie said, "I like to be carded. It makes me just feel like, hey everybody's doing the right job."

The issue here isn't simply focused on stopping tobacco users. The rate of violations in Washington was at 16 percent.

If it surpasses 20 percent it could cost our state 14 million in federal money that's used to prevent and treat issues related to substance abuse.