It is a lot easier for underage teens to buy cigarettes in Seattle than it was last year, according to the King County Health Department.
The department said Thursday that tobacco sales to minors doubled from 2010 to 2011.
“Which is troubling because 90 percent of smokers become addicted before they’re 19 years of age,” said Scott Neal, tobacco prevention program manager. He said their inspections revealed that underage teens can buy cigarettes 15 percent of the time in Seattle, compared to seven percent of the time last year.
They conducted 468 retailer inspections in 2011. Teens were sent into 63 different establishments with their valid, underage ID’s.
“And they simply ask for the product like they would be purchasing it normally, and it’s a valid test for a retailer to find out if they’re carding the kids and turning them away,” Neal said.
The teens were sold tobacco a total of 70 times.
Several retailers, including Super 97 Store on Broadway, Cheapskates Tobacco on Aurora Ave., Grandecker Food Mart & Gas on Holman Rd., Greenwood Center on NW 85th, Dravus BP on Dravus St., Pine Food Store on Pine St., and Walgreens on Northgate Way, sold to underage teens more than once this year.
In Washington state, selling tobacco to a minor can result in a retailer fine of $100 for the first offense. The fine for a clerk is $50. Repeat offenders within a two year window are fined up to $1,500 and may have their license to sell tobacco products revoked.
By Brandi Kruse