Mandan may toughen rules on tobacco
Despite backing off a proposal for mandatory minimum fines for the sale of tobacco to minors, the Mandan City Commission will consider changes Tuesday that put more bite in city ordinances on selling cigarettes, chew and snuff to those under 18 years of a
Changes to the ordinance were first proposed by the Mandan Tobacco Free Coalition in late May.
Members of the coalition told the City Commission that a compliance survey completed in Mandan during November revealed a 25 percent rate of noncompliance, compared with the state-wide average of 19 percent.
"When you look at the survey," said DaNae Kautzmann, representing the coalition, "That should be conclusive in and of itself. We have a real problem in Mandan with youth smoking.
"Drive by the junior high and they are smoking. If we don't send a message, who's going to? I think it's our responsibility."
The City Commission approved the first of two reading of the ordinance and will look at further changes Tuesday.
The proposed changes include:
Reduced license fees for businesses with no violations.
Establishment of compliance surveys as a part of enforcement.
Setting the number of days a license will be suspended when a business has one or more violations.
Setting the fine for violations -- $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $150 for the third offense.
Setting fines and requiring minors caught with tobacco products to take a tobacco education class.
The request from the coalition had mandatory minimum fines of $100 for the first offense, $150 for the second offense and $300 for the third offense.
City Commissioner Tom Kelsch asked that the mandatory minimums included in the initial proposal be removed. Judges need that flexibility, he said.
Kautzmann said, "I don't have a problem with the penalty. If they (city commissioners) feel it needs to be more reasonable at this level, fine. The coalition, however, is not in agreement with removing the mandatory minimums. We need to send a message."
The proposal also came under fire from City Commissioner Dan Ulmer. Although the fines would be levied against businesses, the person who would really pay the price, with the loss of a job, would be the clerks, he said.
For clerks, the fine would represent more than a day's pay, he said. At Ulmer's request, the fines were reduced.
Ulmer also objected to using people under 18 to do the compliance checks.
"I'm a little concerned about how to enforce it," Ulmer said. "I'd prefer to use kids who looked younger but that are 18 years old."
An education program for businesses and workers would need to be completed before implementing the ordinance, Ulmer said.
North Dakota Hospitality Association Director Allan Stenehjem said the association operates its own compliance testing program and it uses people over 18 year of age to make cigarette buys. In cities where this program is used, compliance is about 90 percent, he said.
"We try to get people to check anybody that looks like they are 27 or less," Stenehjem said.
As to Mandan's ordinance, Stenehjem said the association isn't against it. One thing that the Mandan ordinance does that he said he likes is, "It makes all parties responsible -- the retailer, the clerk and the youth."