DES MOINES – Tobacco retailers in Iowa are getting high marks for complying with state laws designed 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 youth under 18 years of age, announced Thursday that 93 percent of Iowa’s tobacco retailers were found to be compliant during checks conducted in the past fiscal year.
That tied fiscal year 2010 for the highest compliance rate achieved since the state began tracking tobacco compliance in 1994, officials said. Tobacco outlets in 27 of Iowa’s 99 counties were found to be 100 percent compliant.
Alcohol Beverage Division officials, in coordination with 193 local law enforcement partners and the Iowa State Patrol, conducted 3,500 compliance checks statewide. Only 245 sales to minors occurred during the 12-month period when officials conducted at least one compliance check at most of Iowa’s 3,400 tobacco outlets.
“I credit the Iowa Pledge program, ABD’s law enforcement partners and the state’s tobacco retailers for the outstanding success,” said Stephen Larson, administrator of the division that took over tobacco enforcement in 2000. “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,” he added in a statement.
The Iowa Pledge program has a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing youth access to tobacco through education and enforcement, Larson said. The program asks Iowa’s kids to take the pledge not to use tobacco products, it encourages retailers not to sell tobacco to minors, and it compels law enforcement agencies to pledge to uphold the state’s tobacco laws.
Larson noted that Iowa tobacco retailers have attained the 93 percent compliance rate twice since the division launched the Iowa Pledge program – a significant change from the mid-1990s when retailers were selling tobacco to minors during 50 percent of checks. By exceeding the required retailer compliance rate, he said the state secures federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding.
Survey data has indicated that tobacco usage rate among Iowa’s youth have steadily declined from 38 percent in 1999 to 17 percent of 11th-grade high school students in 2012.
Detailed compliance information by county can be found on the ABD’s web site.