North Platte stores refuse underage tobacco sale


NORTH PLATTE--Stores all over town were targeted in a tobacco sales compliance check last Thursday, and they all passed.

            Investigator Tim Dowhower, of North Platte Police Department, oversaw the morning-time operation. He said that when the underage cooperating youth tried to purchase tobacco, all the stores asked for, and checked the youth’s identification, then refused the sale. That is exactly what they were supposed to do.

            The 28 businesses involved, were convenience, grocery and tobacco stores, Walgreens and Wal-Mart;

            All the Kwik Stops in town were visited. Tom Wolfgang, director of operations at Kwik Stop, said the chain is firmly committed to complying with the law. He said employees receive extensive education involving true-to-life video scenarios, and know what to watch for. Wolfgang said that occasionally sales clerks are confronted by underage friends or people without appropriate identification. He said he tells clerks that in these situations they need to “plant both feet firmly on the ground and say ‘no'”.

            Linda Yoshida is a sales clerk at Wicked Fast, at 1020 N Jeffers. She said it is important for a store to establish a reputation in the community. “The word gets out that we won’t sell,” she said. She was on duty at the convenience store when the undercover tobacco sales compliance check took place.

            George Haws is coordinator of Community Connections Tobacco Free Lincoln County Coalition. He said refusing to provide tobacco to youth is key to addressing the tobacco epidemic in our country, because about 80 percent of adult tobacco users started when they were too young to buy it legally. 

            “We can all help—friends, family members and everyone else—by not providing cigarettes or other tobacco products to underage youth,” said Haws.

            Tobacco Free Lincoln County focuses on keeping youth from starting to use tobacco, reducing access to tobacco products, and increasing awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke. It is funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement agreement.  TFLC includes local volunteers, and representatives of educational, health, law enforcement and other agencies.