Nearly 1 in 5 Dane County tobacco retailers sold to minors

Non-compliance hits 10-year high
Nearly 1 in 5 Dane County tobacco retailers sold to minors

A recent check of tobacco retailers found that 19 percent of them were caught selling tobacco products to young volunteers.

Public Health Madison & Dane County conducted the compliance check in 2016 in Madison and Dane County. In Madison, 192 retailers were checked for compliance, and of those, 36 establishments sold to minors.

“This is the highest sales rate the city of Madison has experienced since 2006,” said Nina Gregerson, assistant coordinator for the Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition. “It’s unfortunate to see numbers creep up to the rates they were in the mid-2000s, since there are many more resources out there to ensure retail clerks keep tobacco out the of the hands of our youth.”

Citations were issued to both the sales clerk and the business owner. In some of these cases, the improper sales were made by establishments in business to serve adults, such as liquor stores, bars and tobacco shops.

The team conducted 208 compliance checks outside Madison and caught 40 retailers selling to minors.

The sales rate for the rest of the county jumped 8 percent, from 11 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016.

“Rates hovering around the 20 percent mark for both the city and the county are concerning, because they suggest that one out of five underage youths are able to get their hands on tobacco or nicotine products in our area,” Gregerson said.
There is no shortage of revenue when it comes to selling tobacco products. Sixty to 75 percent of sales at AMSTAR gas station on South Park Street come from tobacco sales. Despite the profits, owner Mohammed Ehtashamuddin said they have strict policies when it comes to checking IDs.
“It doesn’t matter if he says he is 18, 19, 20 or 40. Without the I.D, we can not sell,” Ehtashamuddin said.

Ehtashamuddin said that doesn’t stop minors from coming in. He requires all of his cashiers to be properly trained and thoroughly check ID’s. While he might loose a few dollars here and there, Ehtashamuddin said his store’s reputation in the community is more valuable.

“Trying to make a little money in the short term is a big loss for us,” he said “It will damage our business reputation overall. That’s why we try not to do it. It’s not with it in the long run.”

In 57 of the 76 sales that occurred in both the city and county, an ID was asked for and checked by the clerk.

“When we see that clerks are merely going through the motions of checking an ID but not paying attention to the actual date of birth of the minor. The job is simply not getting done,” Gregerson said.

Eight county retail establishments out of a total of 181 inspected had two or more violations in 2016.

A businesses tobacco license could be suspended for 10 days if they get three violations in the same year. Violations also cost businesses and their employees. In Madison, a retailer is charged $73 after their first violation. In Dane County the same offense cost $232.