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Iowa’s tobacco compliance rate ties record high

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 11:22 a.m. CDT

ANKENY — Iowa’s tobacco retailers continue to make steady progress in the fight to keep tobacco products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, the state agency charged with ensuring tobacco products are not sold to vulnerable youth, announced today that 93 percent of Iowa’s tobacco retailers were found compliant during compliances checks conducted this past fiscal year. This ties fiscal year 2010 for the highest compliance rate achieved since the state began tracking tobacco compliance in 1994.

Most of Iowa’s 3,400 tobacco outlets were checked at least once during the year. The ABD, in coordination with 193 local law enforcement partners and the Iowa State Patrol, conducted 3,500 compliance checks statewide. Only 245 sales to minors were made. Twenty-seven counties were found to be 100 percent compliant.

“I credit the Iowa Pledge program, ABD’s law enforcement partners and the state’s tobacco retailers for the outstanding success,” ABD Administrator Stephen Larson said. “The current rate shows we continue to make steady progress in the fight to keep tobacco products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.”

The Newton Police Department has partnered with ABD in providing these compliance checks. The Newton Police Department will start making compliance checks immediately on all retailers that sell tobacco products in Newton.

The 93 percent compliance has been achieved twice since the ABD launched the Iowa Pledge program and took over tobacco enforcement in 2000. In the mid 1990s, Iowa’s tobacco retailers were selling tobacco to minors during 50 percent of checks.

By exceeding the required retailer compliance rate, the state secures federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding. Iowa’s youth tobacco usage rates have steadily declined from 38 percent in 1999 to only 17 percent of 11th graders in 2012. ABD’s Iowa Pledge program, local partners and Iowa retailers have made significant contributions to this reduction in youth tobacco usage. 

The ABD contracts with local law enforcement partners who work with youth to conduct compliance checks. “The support and commitment of local law enforcement officials has provided a strong ally in the state’s effort to reduce teen smoking,” Larson said. “The Iowa Pledge program encourages communities, law enforcement and retailers to work cooperatively and collectively to lower youth access to tobacco.” 

The overall goal of the program is compliance with the state’s tobacco laws, not the issuance of citations. Retailers are more aware and informed of the tobacco laws and work with their employees to ensure illegal sales are not made. “I believe Iowa’s retailers are committed to being part of the solution, not the problem,” Larson said.  

The Iowa Pledge program, developed by the ABD, has a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing youth access to tobacco through education and enforcement. The program asks Iowa’s kids to take the pledge not to use tobacco products, for retailers not to sell tobacco to minors, and for law enforcement to pledge to uphold tobacco laws.