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Did you know, in Oklahoma, the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 18 years of age? In 1997, the U.S. passed legislation, sponsored by Oklahoma’s own Representative Mike Synar, requiring states to enforce compliance of the legal minimum selling age of tobacco. Despite this “crackdown” on local retailers, studies still indicate that the average age someone uses tobacco for the first time is between 12 and 14 years of age!

Prevention Specialists from Oklahoma County are pairing up with local youth to combat this dilemma by performing tobacco compliance checks, also known as “Reward Reminder Visits” (RRV’s). Together, these teams of tobacco compliance enforcers visit local restaurants, convenient stores, grocers, and other tobacco retailers in the Oklahoma City area to ensure business owners and their personnel are following the requirements established in their tobacco license or policies. The purpose of these visits are to educate the local retailers of Oklahoma law concerning the sale of tobacco to underage individuals and the consequences they face when the law is broken. The hard work of prevention specialists and our young volunteers are making progress, but there is still more work to be done.

During the months of January-March 2014, our teams visited 43 retail locations throughout the metro. Out of the 43 stores visited, 19% sold tobacco to our minors! This means that an estimated 1 out of every 5 stores in the metro area sell tobacco products to underage customers. This is unacceptable and this is where we need your help. There is over 250 locations throughout the Oklahoma City area. If you are aware of a store in your community that sells tobacco to minors, you can contact your local law enforcement or a Prevention Specialist at Eagle Ridge Institute at (405)840-1359. If you would like to volunteer to help with tobacco compliance checks or would like information on how to be involved in your community, please call Eagle Ridge Institute at the previously mentioned number. Help us help you create a safe and positive environment for our communities.