TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Attorney General Brnovich wants to issue a warning to parents as more and more minors have been able to buy tobacco products in the state.
Brnovich said the Attorney General’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit is seeing more retailers across the state fail undercover tests.
After seeing a steady decline in recent years, TEU attributes the recent spike 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.
More than 100 retailers have been cited five or more times since 2005.
The ones in the Tucson area are:
- Family Dollar, 1354 West Prince Road
- Family Dollar, 2424 South 6th Avenue
- AM/PM, 2800 North Oracle Road
- Frys, 7050 East 22nd Street
- LA Smoke Shop, 3015 East Benson Highway
- Quick Mart, 5860 East 22nd Street
The program is called Operation Counter Strike. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the statewide failure rate dropped to 9.8 percent, the lowest annual failure rate ever recorded by the Attorney General’s Office. The failure rate has since increased, with a 13 percent failure rate recorded in 2018. So far in 2019, more than 580 inspections have been conducted, and the failure rate has increased to 15 percent.
The attorney general’s office said 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 percent of high school-aged kids have tried vaping. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that e-cigarette use rose 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students nationwide from 2017 to 2018.
During a typical Counter Strike inspection, if an individual sells tobacco 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 for the worker while the business could face a $1,000 fine.
Almost 25,000 retail inspections have been performed by the Attorney General’s Office since the program’s inception in 2002.