Renville County backing off stricter penalties for tobacco sales to youths

·2 min read

May 25—OLIVIA — A committee looking at Renville County's tobacco ordinance has pulled back from an earlier proposal to impose greater fines than the state.

Jill Bruns, public health director, and Annie Tepfer, with the Renville Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol and Tobacco, brought a new set of recommendations last week to the Renville County Board of Commissioners. The commissioners had expressed concerns about earlier recommendations by the county's committee on tobacco sales for greater penalties.

Bruns and Tepfer said during the May 18 meeting that the committee is now recommending to go with penalties that are aligned with the state for selling tobacco products to persons under age 21. License holders would be fined $300 for a first offense; $600 for a second offense within 36 months; and $1,000 for a third offense in the time period.

The ordinance is aimed at preventing sales of products containing nicotine to youth.

In response to concerns expressed earlier, the committee also looked into whether to supply licensed tobacco sellers with devices that scan driver's licenses to confirm a buyer's age. Bruns reported that she checked with the 17 licensed vendors in the county, and all but three already have scanning devices. The three that do not were supplied with digital calendars to inform clerks of the required date of birth for tobacco purchases.

See related:

* Renville County debating new tobacco ordinance to keep products from youths

The new recommendations continue to impose a $50 administrative penalty on clerks over age 21 for violations of the ordinance.

The new recommendations are less restrictive than state guidelines in one aspect. Vendors must be located at least 500 feet from locations where youth congregate, such as parks and schools. Vendors who are currently within that distance are grandfathered in. The state guideline calls for a buffer of 1,000 feet.

Tepfer told the commissioners that vaping by young people is a growing concern. School liaison workers have reported seeing an increased number of vaping devices brought to school by youths.

Committee members are working with the schools to come up with a plan to discourage vaping . A punishment-only approach, such as suspending students for bringing vaping devices on school grounds, harms a student's education, she said.

"Punishment works somewhat, but education and punishment together actually works best," said Tepfer.

The commissioners will formally act at their next meeting on plans to hold a June 22 public hearing on adopting the revised ordinance.

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