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Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors Makes Historic Decline

Posted December 10, 2012, 08:52 AM HST Updated December 10, 2012, 10:44 AM HST
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Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Tobacco sales to minors dropped to 4.3%, its lowest level in Hawaiʻi since the Department of Health initiated the annual survey in 1996.

Here on Maui, there were no sales recorded during a random sampling of participating stores in the spring of 2012; however, rates for individual counties are not considered historically reliable due to the small sample size.

Youth volunteers (ages 15-17) and adult observers visited a total of 209 stores across the state during the survey, in which youth attempted to buy cigarettes to determine how retailers were complying with state tobacco laws.

A total of nine stores sold tobacco to minors during the survey, with sales to a minor occurring less than 1.1% of the time if clerks asked for identification. Of the four counties included in the 2012 statewide survey, the County of Kauai and the County of Maui had no sales, the County of Honolulu had six sales (4.7% rate), and the County of Hawaiʻi had three sales (8.1% rate).

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Last year’s statewide rate was 6.1%. “The declining rate for illegal tobacco sales to minors shows the department’s efforts to educate store owners and retail clerks are working,” said Health Director Loretta Fuddy.

“However,” she said, “now more than ever, with an increasing variety of tobacco products becoming available, we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting our youth.”

The annual survey is a joint effort between the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division and the University of Hawaiʻi.

Hawaii law prohibits tobacco sales to persons under the age of 18 and merchants convicted of selling to minors face a mandatory fine of $500.

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