By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Teenagers looking to bum a smoke will have a rough time finding an establishment that breaks the rules. Area Substance Abuse Council is working with local establishments to keep youth smoking down, with their annual tobacco assessments and are pleased with their findings.
“Most of our findings have been very positive,” Director of Prevention Leslie Mussmann said. “Owners of the stores are really interested in the results and want to make sure they are following the rules.”
In the fourth year of offering the assessments, the inspectors report seeing more compliance. Out of the 29 establishments in the county with tobacco licenses, 26 agreed to voluntarily participate in the assessments.
“More places are making sure the tobacco is behind the counter and they aren’t offering many deals to promote it,” Mussmann said.
Prevention specialists along with Clinton High School students from C-Step, a group against tobacco use, look at placement and other factors that may hinder or promote tobacco usage.
“At the end of the day we are looking at whether they are supporting the law and following guidelines,” Mussmann said.
Signage at establishments was a big plus this year for ASAC specialist, especially at the Hy-Vee gas station. The store features a large sign asking for identification and discouraging minors from trying to purchase tobacco right above the register and in front of the tobacco display.
“All of my staff understand the importance of asking for identification,” Manager Dean Metz said.
Employees at the Hy-Vee gas station must go through special tobacco training before they can hit the sales floor. Metz says he has four new employees who recently went through the training.
“We have participated in the assessments for a few years and it has always went well,” Metz said. “I am confident in our staff. They do a great job.”
These assessments also are a way to measure how accessible tobacco is throughout the county. After it is complete, state inspectors come back to look over FDA guidelines, such as signage on stores near schools.
“Our purpose is to find what we can do to stop youth from starting smoking in the first place,” Mussmann said.
ASAC specialists enlist the help of C-Step students to complete the annual project.
The ambitious group of 25 students meets with ASAC prevention specialist Jennifer Gerdes once a month and often putting in extra time when needed.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Gerdes said. “These kids are really invested in spreading information on tobacco prevention and they are a huge help.”