PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County Health Department is hosting a pair of Certified Tobacco Sales Training sessions in February.
The sessions are designed to help employees of businesses that sell tobacco products understand the laws pertaining to the illegal sale of tobacco to minors.
“In 2012, the state rate (for sale of tobacco products to minors) was at 5 percent,” said Susan Thew, senior public-health sanitarian for the Health Department. “Our county rate was 8 percent (of the number of businesses that sell tobacco products). We’d like to bring that number down.”
Clerks who attend the training will learn about the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act and why they should never sell products to anyone underage.
The training will also reduce any fines and protect stores from losing their tobacco licenses for repeat offenses.
“A (tobacco-sales) license will be suspended for six months when a business receives three or more points (in penalties for selling to minors),” said Jason Redmond, a public-health technician who oversees teenage-sales checks across the county.
“If an illegal tobacco sale is made by a clerk who has successfully completed this training, the store will only receive half of the (penalty) points normally levied.”
The Health Department conducts annual youth-compliance checks at more than 100 county businesses that sell tobacco products.
Redmond or another adult employee at the Health Department works with teenage shoppers who attempt to purchase a tobacco product without proper identification. The teenager, who is also an employee of the Health Department, does not carry ID but cannot lie about his or her age.
“They don’t try to look older or dress older,” Redmond said. “It’s a completely sanitized process.”
If the store sells a product illegally to the shopper, the teenager will return to the store with the adult employee with a citation for the illegal sale.
In 2012, eight businesses illegally sold products to those Health Department shoppers. Five of those citations were for first offenses, so the store in question did not lose its tobacco license.
The other three businesses are appealing the decision and will go before an administrative hearing soon to decide their cases.
The upcoming workshops, which will be held at the County Health Department on Feb. 27, are open to all clerks, supervisors and staff who sell tobacco products. There is a $20 registration fee per person.
Clinton County Health Department staff members have received specialized training to hold the sessions.
This year’s presentation will also focus on new laws pertaining to the use of shisha, herbal cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, which are prohibited by law for people 18 and under.
The Health Department also conducts adult-compliance checks with annual visits to retail outlets to ensure the stores are in line with the law.
“We are doing whatever we can to minimize sales to minors,” said John Kanoza, director of the Environmental Division. “We’re hoping that our efforts can make a big difference (in reducing sales to minors).”
MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
For Sue Lintner Kinne, co-owner of Cadyville Gulf with husband, Dan Kinne, adhering to the tobacco-sales laws is just a matter of principle.
“I am very strict with my employees about checking proof of age if there is any question at all,” she said during a recent adult-compliance check at the popular business. “If the customer isn’t happy (with being asked for ID), then they can go somewhere else.”
Lintner Kinne and several of her employees have attended the Health Department sessions, and she said the education was very useful in helping her store stay in compliance.
“It’s been six years (since she and her husband took ownership of the store), and my staff have been very supportive throughout,” she said.
Certificates earned during the course are good for each clerk who attends and not for the entire facility. Certification is good for three years.
Email Jeff Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org