Recent statistics have one state agency worried they’re sliding backwards when it comes to tobacco use and kids.
One in three North Dakota High school students report using tobacco products, and one of the largest factors is easier access.
Since 1992 Congress has required tobacco compliance checks.
Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Division Assistant Director Laura Anderson says, “So it is using minors, you know, accompanied by law enforcement to do that compliance check, to make sure the laws are being followed.”
And that worked for a while. From 2015 to 2016, the amount of retailers caught selling tobacco to minors dropped by almost 15 percent. But just last year it went back to almost 9 percent.
Anderson adds, “Which isn’t zero where we want it to be.”
Runway Express Mart Sales Associate Jess Langemo says they catch a minor trying to buy tobacco a couple times a month.
She shares, “We ID anyone that really looks under 25. If we don’t know them, like regulars that come in, and I don’t know you; and say you’re buying like cigars, I’ll definitely card for cigars.”
She’s familiar with compliance checks.
The Express Mart has only ever had one infraction according to the manager.
Langemo adds, “They’ll send us, you know, ‘You have completed this compliance check without any mishaps’. And you know, we denied that sale to a minor.”
Anderson says a big part of the drop in the amount of tobacco sold to minors has been the department’s efforts in educating store owners and workers.
Because, as the North Dakota Department of Human Services says, the best way to decrease youth tobacco use, is to prevent them from being able to buy it in the first place.
In North Dakota, the fine for selling tobacco to a minor is 250 dollars on the employee who sold it, and another 250 for the establishment. A business can also lose its tobacco license for up to a year.