Five retailers fail tobacco compliance check

WORTHINGTON -- Five of Nobles County's 28 tobacco retailers failed an educational compliance check last month, selling chewing tobacco or cigarettes to minors. Because the checks were made for educational purposes, the businesses will not be fined.

WORTHINGTON -- Five of Nobles County’s 28 tobacco retailers failed an educational compliance check last month, selling chewing tobacco or cigarettes to minors. Because the checks were made for educational purposes, the businesses will not be fined.

Luke Ewald, public health educator with Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services, works with Nobles County Community Services-Public Health on tobacco-related education. He said the checks provide an opportunity to educate sales clerks and retailers about state tobacco laws.

“This is just a warning,” he said. “The real (compliance check) happens in the fall. We encourage businesses to review with staff the county and state rules for tobacco compliance and make sure you really read the ID (card).”

The five businesses issued a warning were Casey’s Store 2166, 1007 Oxford St., and Bob & Steve’s Holiday, 1408 Oxford St., both in Worthington; Keith’s Grocery & Bake Shoppe, 219 Maine Ave., Adrian; Jim’s Amoco Food Shop, 104 10th St., Brewster; and Ellsworth Food Center, 323 S. Broadway St., Ellsworth.

All of the tobacco retailers will again be checked this fall, and if businesses fail at that time, fines will be issued. In Nobles County, the fine for first offense is $50; second offense is $200 (if within 24 months of first offense) and a third offense fines the retailer $250.


Ewald said the educational checks were done in early and mid-June, with a 16-year-old female and a 16-year-old male recruited to attempt to purchase tobacco products. Of the five retailers who either failed to check ID or misread the ID, four had sold chewing tobacco to the minors and one sold cigarettes.

“In those instances of fails, the youth often gave the ID, and the retailer looked at it, but they would sell the product to the youth,” Ewald noted. “Some of the retailers said they thought the youth was 18.”

The teens were given instruction by a community health worker before attempting to make the purchases, Ewald explained. The youths learn how a compliance check is done, they must carry their own ID card and they must be honest with the sales clerk if they are asked their age.

If the retailer passes the compliance check and refuses to sell to the minor, they are given a certificate noting their success. For those who fail receive a warning, an educational sheet is provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services reminding them of the law, and the fine if it is during a standard compliance -- rather than educational compliance -- check.

While the compliance checks are primarily focused on tobacco sales, Ewald said public health also checks to make sure retailers aren’t selling imitation tobacco products. These include candy cigarettes and cigars, Big League Chew bubble gum, beef jerky chew sold in tins similar to chewing tobacco and bubble gum cigars. Nobles County’s tobacco ordinance outlawed the sale of these products as of Sept. 15, 2014, although they can be purchased in neighboring counties, including Jackson and Cottonwood, where Ewald works.

“We’re not working on point of sale projects right now (in Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services),” he said. “Eventually, we’ll work on that kind of stuff.”

For each tobacco compliance check made, the county receives $40 from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The funding helps pay for the checks and tobacco education.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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