Youth serving as underage decoys had a relatively difficult time buying cheap cigarettes products this year in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

The annual Youth Tobacco Act compliance checks produced 91 percent compliant among Muskegon County retailers checked and 94 percent compliant in Ottawa County. Public health department officials in both counties reported their results Thursday.

Jenna Blamer, Public Health-Muskegon County's public health educator, said she was pleased with the results.

“Our goal is to be under 10 percent so we just made it this year,” Blamer said. “We try to create more awareness among retailers that we are holding them accountable.”

In Muskegon County, underage youth operatives with oversight by law enforcement or public health staff tested a clerk's ability to refuse cigarettes store to minors at 109 retailers. Out of those checked this year, 10 sold a discount cigarette online product to an underage buyer.

Those businesses that failed the check were Benson Drug, 961 Spring; J B Packaged Liquor, 3374 Hoyt; Jack's Corner Store, 4190 Grand Haven; Laketon Marathon, 1121 E. Laketon; Marathon, 2806 S. Getty; Plumb's, 120 E. Broadway; Ray's Mini Mart, 2210 Holton; Shell Mart, 1 W. Sherman; Tom's Drink All, 1500 S. Getty; and Westshore Wash, 2204 Glade.

In Ottawa County, underage youth operatives tried to buy tobacco at 84 retailers, finding five that failed the test. The five that sold tobacco to a minor were Oasis Party Store and Seaway Party Store in Grand Haven, Admiral Petroleum in Spring Lake, and GVL Party Store and Walgreens in Allendale.

Blamer said those retailers who fail the compliance check will be tested more often. She said law enforcement can issue a ticket, carrying a fine of $50-$200, to clerks who fail the compliance check.

The Youth Tobacco Act forbids stores from selling tobacco products to customers under age 18. Michigan faces a penalty of losing up to $23 million in federal block grants if 20 percent of retailers fail the compliance checks.

The Muskegon County and Ottawa County compliance checks are part of the No Cigs for Our Kids campaign, a partnership of Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon and Ottawa counties to eliminate sales of tobacco to youth.

Since 2004, the No Cigs for Our Kids campaign has demonstrated a statistically significant change in the following areas: fewer youth inspectors are able to purchase tobacco, clerks are more likely to ask for identification, and stores are more likely to place tobacco products behind the counter and to post the Youth Tobacco Act signage.

Muskegon County's health department initiated the program in 2005. In that first year, about 19 percent of retailers failed the compliance check.

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