AG's Office Attributes Spike to Sale of E-cigarettes to Minors
PHOENIX – Attorney General Brnovich is warning parents that there has been a recent uptick in sales of tobacco products to minors in Arizona. The Attorney General’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit (TEU) is seeing more retailers across Arizona fail undercover tests when it comes to selling tobacco products to minors. After seeing a steady decline in recent years, TEU attributes the recent spike of failure rates to the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
Throughout the year, TEU conducts undercover inspections utilizing youth volunteers to check if convenience stores and smoke shops are selling tobacco products to minors. The program is called Operation Counter Strike. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the statewide failure rate dropped to 9.8%, the lowest annual failure rate ever recorded by the Attorney General’s Office. However, thereafter the failure rate increased, with a 13% failure rate recorded for calendar year 2018. So far in 2019, more than 580 inspections have been conducted, and the failure rate has increased to 15%.
The upward trending failure rate is attributed to the sale and purchase of e-cigarettes, which are sold more often to youth than cigarettes. Recent data demonstrates that 51% of high school-aged kids have tried vaping. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that e-cigarette use rose 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students nationwide from 2017 to 2018.
“After decades of progress and decline in youth smoking, the dramatic uptick with youth e-cigarette use is an alarming trend,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “We are doing everything we can at the Attorney General's Office to educate the public and to ultimately hold individuals and businesses responsible when they sell tobacco to a minor.”
During a typical Counter Strike inspection, if an individual sells a tobacco product to a youth volunteer, he/she may receive a citation for furnishing tobacco to a minor. This is an offense with a potential fine of $300. Additionally, the business also may be fined up to $1,000 per offense. Almost 25,000 retail inspections have been performed by the Attorney General's Office since the program’s inception in 2002.
Parents can monitor this youth compliance check map to see pass/fail information for convenience stores and vape shops. People can also file a complaint about a business with the Attorney General’s Office.