PHOENIX – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is warning parents that there has been a recent uptick in sales of tobacco products to minors in Arizona. After seeing a steady decline in recent years, the Attorney General’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit attributes the recent spike of failure rates to the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
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.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, 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.