City and County agencies today announced that vapor product sales to minors in Lancaster County increased from 5.1 percent in 2018 to 7.25 percent in 2019. The annual compliance checks are a cooperative effort of the Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department (LLCHD), the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) and the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office (LSO). The purchases occurred in convenience stores and vapor shops during 69 attempts by youth volunteers. Local agencies added vapor compliance checks to their annual tobacco compliance checks in 2017.
"Our local retailers have done fairly a good job not selling to youth under the age of 19, but there is a future concern with an increase in sales to minors this past year," said LSO Sergeant Mike Peschong.
Rebekah Willoughby, LLCHD Health Educator said, "It's great to all be working in a collaborative manner to decrease in vapor sales to minors, however, we know youth get most of their vapor and tobacco products from social sources, and we urge everyone to be diligent in not providing them to youth under the age of 19."
A 2019 Lancaster County Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates nearly 78 percent of youth using vapor products obtain them from social sources, such as borrowing products, giving money to someone else to purchase, and receiving products from someone of legal age. Purchasing directly in a retail location is the next most common way youth obtain vapor products (7 percent).
Retailers have been directed to comply with the new federal law raising the minimum age to 21 years for purchase of tobacco and vaping products. However, City officials are delaying a corresponding change to provide time for the State of Nebraska to amend state law. "Until a City ordinance change occurs, local compliance checks conducted by the Health Department and local law enforcement will use age 19 to determine compliance with state law and the City's ordinance," said LPD Captain Jason Stille.
LPD, LSO, and LLCHD are among 20 community members of the Tobacco Free Lancaster County Coalition. The coalition's priorities are to keep youth from starting to use tobacco, reduce access to tobacco products, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol. Funding for the compliance checks is provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
For more information on LLCHD's tobacco prevention efforts and youth tobacco use rates, visit lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: tobacco).
Retail locations with more than one sale of a tobacco or vapor product to a minor during 2019 were the Good to Go/Shell at 6006 Havelock Ave. and Kwik Shop at 1441 N. Cotner Blvd.
The following retail locations had one sale of a tobacco or vapor product to a minor during 2019: