Underage tobacco use, sales bring stiff penalties
Do you know the law about underage tobacco use? According to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, 34 percent of Iowa teens have reported using tobacco products.
Iowa law states underage individuals who possess and/or use will face the following sanctions:
• First offense — $50 fine and eight hours of community service
• Second offense — $100 fine and 12 hours of community service
• Third or subsequent offenses — $250 fine and 16 hours of community service
Currently, 88 percent of Iowa retailers are in compliance with Iowa's tobacco sales laws — that means 12 percent of Iowa's retailers sold tobacco products to minors during the last round of compliance checks.
The sanctions for businesses that sell tobacco products to underage customers are more severe than individuals' fines. They are:
• First offense — $300
• Second offense within two years — $1,500 or 30-day suspension
• Third offense within three years — $1,500 or 30-day suspension
• Fourth offense within three years — $1,500 or 60-day suspension
• Fifth offense — Revocation (within 4 years)
There also are penalties for the clerks who sell the products:
• First offense — $100 fine
• Second offense — $250 fine
• Third offense — $500 fine
So what are we doing about it? The Iowa Pledge Program is a program that in conjunction with law enforcement provides education to local retailers. The program also encourages education within the schools to show consequences that result from tobacco use.
Studies have shown that with enforcement efforts and retailer education, illegal sales of tobacco to minors can be reduced. Similarly, studies support effective law enforcement as an essential component of a comprehensive statewide tobacco program.