CHICAGO (IRN) – Sales of cigarettes to underage buyers are way down in Illinois.
Seventeen years ago, when law enforcement would conduct a sting, kids under age 18 could buy tobacco 67 % of the time. Now it’s 4%. The decline has been a trend since 1994. There was a precipitous drop from 1994-97, then a more gradual decline from 1998-2011.
Stores found to be in violation by selling cigarettes to minors can be fined $200, $400 or $600, but Gloria Materre, director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, which also enforces the tobacco age law, says this reduction did not come from enforcement alone.
“More than anything, I think, is the education,” she said. “It’s the marketing, it’s the labeling, it’s educating retailers and sending out warning letters and what have you in case there is a violation. So a lot of it has to do with just educating people.”
Some of the enforcement effort has been funded by a federal grant of $515,000 that the state received last year.
Many teenagers under 18 still have access to cigarettes, but Materre says they’re getting them from friends and family members, rarely directly from retailers.
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