Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/13/1996 01:14 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 365 MINOR IN POSSESSION OF TOBACCO                                       
 Number 0615                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that the next order of business to come             
 before the House Judiciary Committee was HB 365.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE paraphrased his Sponsor Statement, as follows:           
 "House Bill 365 plugs a loophole.  We have a pervasive problem of             
 tobacco use among our young people throughout the United States,              
 and especially in Alaska.  In 1992, the federal government passed             
 what is called the Synar Amendment.  This requires that states do             
 random, unannounced inspections of locations where tobacco is sold,           
 and try to reduce illegal sales or sales to minors.  Currently,               
 Alaska is not able to comply with this federal requirement for                
 compliance checks.  Current law would indicate that the young                 
 people who are used to achieve these compliance checks could                  
 conceivably be charged with Minor in Possession, and adults who               
 work with them could be charged with Contributing to the                      
 Delinquency of A Minor.  I introduced HB 365 to ensure our state's            
 ability to conform with the compliance checks that are required by            
 the Synar Amendment.  It allows young people to work in tandem with           
 law enforcement agencies to complete compliance checks regarding              
 the sale of tobacco to young people.  If there are no compliance              
 checks, we do stand to lose some federal support.  This legislation           
 would eliminate current obstacles to carrying out compliance                  
 checks, and would then reduce the illegal sale of tobacco to our              
 young people."                                                                
 Number 0729                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced the first witness would be Annette                  
 Marley, of the Alaska Native Health Board.  He then announced that            
 her testimony would be in letter form only.  Chairman Porter then             
 called on Stacy Goade.                                                        
 STACY GOADE announced that she would read a statement on behalf of            
 the Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network and the Seven Circles                   
 Coalition.  She read from a prepared statement, as follows:  "The             
 Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network and the Seven Circles Coalition             
 have been working during the past year to conduct underage                    
 compliance checks as part of an effort to reduce youth access to              
 tobacco products in Juneau.                                                   
 "The Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network is a grass-roots group                 
 working to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco usage, especially            
 among youth.  The Network takes a comprehensive approach to tobacco           
 issues, and is focused on four strategies.  The Network believes              
 all four strategies are necessary and important if we are going to            
 protect children from tobacco addiction.  The first strategy is               
 education and cessation programs.  The second is addressing tobacco           
 advertising to youth.  The third is tobacco tax increases.  Fourth            
 is youth access to tobacco products, which is what HB 365 will help           
 us with.                                                                      
 "The Seven Circles Coalition is a regional coalition which seeks to           
 assist communities in creating effective strategies, with youth               
 involvement, to prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other                
 drugs and violence among youth.  Seven Circles has provided staff             
 and financial support to help the Tobacco Network achieve its                 
 goals, especially around issues involving youth access to tobacco.            
 "The Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network became involved during the             
 past year in trying to limit illegal tobacco sales to underage                
 youth in Juneau.  This project was initiated due to concerns that             
 educational efforts in the schools, churches, and at home were not            
 working, but in fact were undermined when children were able to               
 walk into a store and easily buy an illegal tobacco product.                  
 "We began our compliance checks last May, using 8th grade 14 and 15           
 year old youth.  During the first series of compliance checks, we             
 found that out of 42 purchase attempts, 17 resulted in an illegal             
 sale to a minor.  This is an underage purchase rate of 40 percent.            
 We found also that youth have an even easier time purchasing                  
 tobacco products at locations in the Mendenhall Valley, where the             
 majority of the youth in this community live, with an underage                
 purchase rate of 55 percent.                                                  
 "It was disturbing how easy it was for these 14 and 15 year old               
 youth, who are all well below the age of 19, which is the legal               
 age, how easy it was for them to buy tobacco from our local                   
 retailers.  Following the compliance checks, we educated the                  
 community and the retailers about the problem of youth access to              
 tobacco products.  Managers at all establishments were contacted              
 and alerted to concerns about illegal sales to minors, as well as             
 the clerks, and provided with materials to educate the clerks and             
 signs to post at every check-out stating the law regarding sales to           
 minors.  The retailers were encouraged to talk with us and help us            
 ensure that underage youth were not able to purchase tobacco                  
 products at their store.                                                      
 "During the follow-up compliance checks two months later, during              
 November and December of 1995, we found clerks were more                      
 conscientious about preventing illegal sales to minors.  This time            
 we made 45 purchase attempts, with only 9 resulting in illegal                
 sales.  The purchase rate for underage minors was then reduced to             
 20 percent.  Again, managers of establishments were contacted, and            
 the names of those retailers continuing to sell tobacco products to           
 underage youth were publicly released.                                        
 "Additional educational support was offered to retailers, and in              
 the future we hope to conduct a final series of compliance checks             
 which provide immediate feedback to the clerk and the store                   
 manager, through either working with the Police Department to issue           
 citations, having youth notify the clerk after the sale has been              
 made that it was an illegal sale, and by contacting the store                 
 manager immediately following the purchase attempt.                           
 "The legislation being considered today will help to provide legal            
 police support in conducting our follow-up compliance checks and              
 enforcing state law.  Up to this point, because it isn't allowed,             
 the police have been very reluctant to be involved with the so-               
 called sting operations.                                                      
 "Although our efforts demonstrated a significant reduction in                 
 illegal sales of tobacco to youth, the problem of youth smoking in            
 Juneau has not gone away.  In our compliance checks we primarily              
 used younger teenagers, and the youth participating were instructed           
 not to lie about their age directly, and to lie if asked for ID.              
 In real life youth attempting to buy cigarettes and chewing tobacco           
 will lie about their age, and they will use fake ID.  They also               
 will get older teenagers to purchase for them.                                
 "For these reasons, although we strongly believe in compliance                
 checks as an excellent way to encourage merchant compliance, they             
 are only one piece of the puzzle, and must be used in combination             
 with other strategies to prevent tobacco addiction among youth."              
 Number 1037                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there were any other witnesses.  Seeing              
 none, he announced the public hearing was closed.                             
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move HB 365 from the House              
 Judiciary Committee, with individual recommendations.                         
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked the bill sponsor's permission to             
 amend on the tobacco tax.                                                     
 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that, hearing no objections, HB 365 was             
 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.                                  

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