If Woodward were to be graded for refusing to sell tobacco to minors, the community would get an A+.

In tobacco compliance checks conducted at a number of area convenience stores on March 16, 100 percent of the Woodward retailers checked refused to sell tobacco to a minor, according to Ashley Ferguson, coordinator of the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health Area Prevention Resource Center (APRC), which conducted the checks.

Woodward stores selling tobacco that were visited on March 16 were Hutch’s C-Store No. 116; Love’s Country Store No. 47; Honk-N-Holler; and Jiffy Trip No. 433.

“Woodward usually does a pretty good job of being compliant, but many other regions in the state don’t have the compliance rate it does,” Ferguson said. “It was also 100 percent the last time we did it in Woodward.”

During the tobacco compliance checks a youth volunteer younger than 18 makes a random visit to a tobacco retailer and attempts to purchase some type of tobacco product while under the supervision of an APRC representative.

For these most recent checks the youth was 16, Ferguson said, noting “we don’t try to trick the clerks. The teenager doesn’t look like an adult. They ... look like a teenager because we don’t want to encourage (clerks to sell).”

“He actually asked to by Skoal,” she said, noting the youth could try to buy any kind of tobacco product.

The APRC representative is present to ensure the youth’s identification was checked, she said.

When the clerks refused the sales, they were praised and asked to fill out  information sheets, which were given to the store managers to notify them whether the clerks were compliant or not.

“I think it’s important that the tobacco retailer knows that they’re a very important aspect of tobacco prevention among youth,” Ferguson said, noting “It just takes a minute to take that I.D., look at it, look at the picture and if they don’t think they’re old enough, they have the right to refuse the sale.”

But while Woodward would get high grade for refusing to sell tobacco to a minor, it would come close to flunking the test for alcohol sales to minors.

“We did 12 alcohol checks in September and we had a 66-percent compliance rate,” she said. “Four out of the 12  (stores checked) sold.”

Ferguson said clerks are less likely to sell tobacco to minors because “the norms and views of tobacco have changed, whereas many people think it’s a right of  passage for kids to drink.”

While tobacco checks are conducted with only APRC representatives, law enforcement officials accompany them during alcohol checks, she said, explaining, "In Oklahoma, the liquor laws state it’s a felony to sell liquor to a minor.”

If there are any violations during these alcohol compliance checks, then the law enforcement officer would be able to issue a citation to the clerk.

However, Ferguson noted the tobacco compliance checks done by APRC alone do not have the same legal implications.

“When we do tobacco checks we don’t do citations because we don’t have the authority to do so,” she said.

However, she explained that the APRC checks can be considered as "a trial run" for the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, which the APRC reports to and can issue citations if needed when it conducts its own tobacco compliance checks.

If anyone suspects tobacco or alcohol laws are being violated, they can report their suspected violations to the ABLE Commission by calling (866) 894-3517, Ferguson said.

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