No sales to customers under 21 were made during checks from authorities last December

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - During tobacco checks performed by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State Police, no Estacada locations made underage sales.

Though the rate of tobacco sales to minors has increased statewide, no underage tobacco sales were made at Estacada locations during inspections by the Oregon Health Authority.

The results of the statewide inspections were released last week. During 2017 and 2018, the organization worked with Oregon State Police to perform checks on retailers to ensure they were not selling tobacco products to those who are underage. In January 2018, the minimum age to purchase the products in Oregon rose from 18 to 21.

For the first half of 2018, the retailer violation rate was 18 percent across the state. During the previous year, the violation rate was 16 percent.

The 985 inspections conducted across the state led to 180 sales to minors.

Attempted purchases included cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cigarillos. Among these products, e-cigarettes had the highest violation rate at 22 percent.

However, visits to Estacada locations yielded no underage tobacco sales.

In December 2017, officials visited Harvest Market, Springwater Grocery, Viewpoint Grocery, the Shell gas station and the 76 gas station. They attempted to purchase cigarettes as minors, and no sales were made.

At Harvest Market, employees undergo training about the requirements for tobacco sales every three months.

"It starts with training our cashiers, and understanding what's required in sales for those items," said Harvest Market manager Dan Backwell.

When a customer attempting to purchase tobacco looks younger than 30, they are asked to present identification.

"We really look at the dates, birth and expiration, and the photo. We try to stay pretty vigilant," Backwell said.

At Springwater Grocery, identification is required if a customer who wishes to purchase tobacco looks younger than 35.

Employee Michelle Beck said her background as a bartender helps with this process.

"Being used to carding people is a plus," she said.

James Balentine, another employee at the store, said that underage customers attempting to purchase tobacco is not a frequent occurrence.

"I haven't run into it," he said.

Backwell added that it seldom happens at Harvest Market.

"I like to think they they know that we don't partake in that, and that we try very hard to be in compliance," he said.

Retailers who sell tobacco to underage customers face up to a $500 fine for the first or second offense and up to a $1,000 fine for three or more violations.

"Tobacco remains the number-one preventable cause of death and disability and kills nearly 8,000 people in Oregon each year," said Tom Jeanne of the Oregon Health Authority, noting that a val-

uable element of ending tobacco addiction is ensuring that youths do not engage with it.

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