Drug Free Montcalm has seen an increase in success during yearly tobacco checks throughout the county.
During the month of April, 71 stores that sell tobacco in Montcalm County received compliance check to determine if the store would sell tobacco to minors.
According to Montcalm County Health Promotion Coordinator John Kroneck, only six of the 71 stores sold tobacco to minors, which is a 91.5 percent success rate with 65 of the stores passing muster.
“The success rate has gone up,” Kroneck said. “It means law enforcement and businesses are doing great. They are stepping up and doing what they need to do especially businesses and their clerks making it a real priority, and we really appreciate that.”
Drug Free Montcalm used underage youth and local law enforcement agencies who worked with the youth to check the stores.
Kroneck said this specific compliance check is not required, but these types of checks need to be performed.
“There is a law that says the state of Michigan needs to be under 20 percent sales or over 80 percent compliance,” he explained. “It order to meet that, we need to (check) throughout the year.”
If a business did sell to minors, the clerk received a citation and will be in communication with law enforcement officials. Those who did pass the test received a card of congratulations.
When the checks began in 2001, only 50 percent of the stores passed, Kroneck said. For the past five years, the success rate as been in the 80 percent range.
“Law enforcement has been partnering with us since 2001 and they are a big reason for this success,” he said.
The reason the compliance check is important, Kroneck said, is to discover the access youth have to tobacco.
Kroneck explained the “higher the sales rate, the higher the use. The higher the use, the higher the addiction. The higher the addiction, the more health problems, which means more early deaths.”
Now, Drug Free Montcalm wants to look at other ways of reducing youth access to tobacco.
According to Drug Free Montcalm Coordinator Amy Buckingham, youth are relying more and more on older people to purchase the tobacco for them.
“Youth report they rarely are able to buy their tobacco in stores currently, as was relatively easily accomplished a generation ago,” Buckingham said. “As a community, our norms about selling tobacco to youth have changed.”
The current trend of older and newly legal adults purchasing tobacco for the underage youth is something that needs to be looked at, she said.
“We now need to decide if we are going to continue condoning this, and if not, how shall we go about changing it,” Buckingham said. “Drug Free Montcalm is interested in hearing from anyone who would like to work on this.”