All 40 establishments that sell tobacco products in Tooele County passed an underage sale check by the Tooele County Health Department and the Tooele County Alcohol Task Force for the first time in at least 10 years.
The check ended on May 16.
“This is a big deal,” said Desiree Mudrow, tobacco prevention specialist at the Tooele County Health Department. “Usually, we have a few that fail. This just goes to show that the public is becoming educated, they are scanning IDs, and they are well informed of what the law is.”
The check happens twice a year and is completed by the Alcohol Task Force, that deals with both alcohol and tobacco, and underage individuals, called “CUBS” which stands for Covert Underage Buyers, who volunteer to be sent into stores to attempt to purchase tobacco.
If asked at the establishment, the CUBS are required to give their correct age.
Prior to visiting the establishments, the CUBS meet at a local police department to watch training videos. Then, officers drive them in an undercover vehicle to the establishment.
“When we send in our underage buyers, we hope that nobody sells to us,” Cpl. Colbey Bentley, public information officer at the Tooele City Police Department said.
If the business refuses to sell tobacco to the buyers, like all 40 businesses recently did, the business receives a compliance letter in the mail stating that they passed the test.
“We really appreciate all of the retailers for getting on board and doing what they can to help prevent youth tobacco use,” Jamie Andersen, prevention specialist and public information officer at the Tooele County Health Department said.
Health Department officials accredit all retailers passing the tobacco check to messaging they have installed near registers and on doors of establishments that sell tobacco.
“We have these stickers that we pass out that says the establishment ID’s,” Mudrow explained. “We also put stickers on vape shops saying that those under 21 shouldn’t even come in. We have posters that we share with our retailers just letting the public know that they need to check IDs and to scan them anytime they are selling a tobacco product.”
They also accredit the 100% success rate to community members caring and being involved in minor’s lives.
“This is really a community effort,” Mudrow said. “It’s making sure everyone is on board, they know what the laws are, and the employees are getting their tobacco handling permits … Our community is interested in being compliant. That plays a huge part in it.”
Being provided tobacco underage has been proven to lead to higher addiction rates.
“The tobacco companies really target youth,” Andersen said. “If a young person is using tobacco, it can lead to an addiction that can be with them their whole life and lead to health problems in the future … The more we can do to protect our youth from these products, the better off they will be in the long run.”
To prevent underage tobacco use, individuals who do buy tobacco should have their IDs ready at checkout to show they are compliant, refuse to share tobacco products with those underage, and talk to children about the harms of tobacco.
The Tooele County Alcohol Task Force was created as a way to prevent underage drinking and tobacco use.
The force currently consists of around 10 officers and professionals from local police departments and the Tooele County Health Department.