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Vashon Retailers Found Selling Tobacco to Kids

Underage teens made purchases at three of four stores inspected

Recent tobacco retailer inspections on Vashon Island found three out of four retailers selling tobacco to underage teens. This is a startling reversal from inspections between 2005 and 2009 when there were no sales to minors. Overall, King County’s high retailer compliance rate has dropped over the past two years from 96% in 2009 to 89% in 2011.

The three establishments cited are:

  • Vashon Market - 17639 100th SW
  • Vashon Mart (Chevron) - 17803 Vashon Hwy SW
  • Mom’s Grocery & Deli - 19124 Vashon Hwy SW

The fourth retailer, Harbor Mercantile, at 103rd & SW 240th, did not sell tobacco to underage teens.

In Washington State, selling tobacco to a minor is prohibited by law and results in a fine for retailers of $100 for the first offense and are educated about selling tobacco responsibly. The fine for a clerk is $50. Repeat offenders are fined up to $1,500 and may have their license to sell tobacco products suspended. Retailers refusing to sell tobacco to minors are congratulated in person and given an information packet.

“We’ve made progress over the past ten years in reducing the impact of tobacco addiction in our community, but we need to keep this good work going,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “As funding for proven tobacco prevention programs is eliminated statewide, the tobacco industry continues to find new ways to market products that appeal to kids.”

The tobacco industry has responded to tougher federal regulations around the marketing and advertising of cigarettes with new tobacco products that are attractive to youth, such as dissolvable tobacco that closely resembles gum, candy and breath strips, and cigars, cigarillos and snus (teabag-like pouches of tobacco) in flavors such as peach, chocolate, strawberry and grape.

Sales of tobacco to teens are a high concern because most adult tobacco addictions start in youth; 90% of current smokers became addicted before they were 19 years old. Overall, about a third of all kids who become regular smokers before adulthood will eventually die from smoking.Tobacco use is the leading cause of death in King County, leading to 1,990 deaths per year and $343 million in medical care costs, lost productivity and other expenses.

Retailer compliance checks are conducted throughout the year by Public Health and the Washington State Liquor Control Board, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to new federal laws around tobacco and cigarettes.Anyone who witnesses a merchant or other adults providing tobacco to a minor is encouraged to call Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Program at 206-296-7613 to file a confidential complaint.

For more information about tobacco prevention, please visit Public Health - Seattle & King County’s web site at