Palo Alto County Sheriff Office working with retailers to curb sale of tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products to youth

The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office is now part of a state program that emphasizes training retailers to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products out of youths’ hands.

The Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release its involvement with the program, I-PLEDGE, on Monday. The program is a partnership with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division that educates retailers and seeks to enforce Iowa’s laws on tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products.

Through the program, local retail clerks are encouraged take an online training course and pass an exam to become I-PLEDGE certified. That certification allows the retailer to use affirmative defense against a civil penalty if a certified clerk makes an illegal sale.

Palo Alto County deputies will also conduct compliance checks at local retailers as part of the program. These checks will involve underage customers — while being supervised by law enforcement officers — going into retailers and attempting to buy tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products.

Clerks who make an illegal sale to those underage customers will be cited on the spot, the Sheriff’s Office stated.

Sheriff Lynn Schultes stated in the press release that the intent of the I-PLEDGE program is not simply to hand out citations.

“By partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, we hope to educate clerks and maintain a compliant retail environment in our community.” Schultes stated. “Moreover, we pledge to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.”

The penalty for selling those products to a minor includes a $100 fine for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine for third or more offenses.

Since the inception of the I-PLEDGE program in 2000, the state’s tobacco compliance rate has reached 91%.

With its participation, the Sheriff’s Office is working to increase that compliance rate even more this year.

I-PLEDGE training and certification records can be found online.

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