Most stores won't sell smokes to teenagers, survey says
BISMARCK, N.D. - Most North Dakota stores won't sell cigarettes to teenagers, although a survey's results showed a slight increase this year in the number of businesses that provided tobacco to young buyers.
In a random check of 219 stores statewide that are licensed to sell tobacco, 15-year-old buyers were able to walk out of 17 stores with a pack of cigarettes, a violation rate of 7.8 percent, the state Department of Human Services said.
State law forbids anyone younger than 18 from buying, possessing or using tobacco.
Kris Storbeck, the agency's treatment services administrator, said a similar check last year resulted in illegal sales at 13 of the 210 stores visited, a violation rate of 6.2 percent.
During this year's checks, a 15-year-old would walk into the store, attempt to buy a pack of cigarettes and wait to see if the store clerk asked for identification, Storbeck said Tuesday. If the clerk asked for ID, the teenager left.
Storbeck said four 15-year-olds made the attempts, all of whom were accompanied by adults who remained outside the store.
"It's not a sting operation," she said. "It's just a compliance check, to see who is complying with the law and who isn't."
Kathleen Mangskau, the state Health Department's tobacco prevention coordinator, said the high compliance rate was heartening, but said merchants need to continue to be on guard against selling tobacco to young people.
"In North Dakota, tobacco use is still a very serious problem among our youth," Mangskau said. "We still have 5,000 students in grades nine through 12 who are current smokers. That's far too many of our youth who are still smoking."
North Dakota's violation rate has been below 10 percent for the last four years. If it rises above 20 percent, the state could lose a portion of federal grant money that is used for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, Storbeck said.
Wahpeton had three merchants that made illegal tobacco sales, while Fargo and Mercer County had two each, the survey said. One Bismarck store made an illegal sale, as well as one store each in Benson, Bottineau, Dickey, LaMoure, McIntosh, McHenry, Pembina, Walsh, and Ward counties.
Local prosecutors are told of the results of the compliance checks, Storbeck said. "They can choose to do with it as they want," she said.