I was very disappointed to see the naive and oversimplified opinion of the Deseret News regarding Bountiful's refusal to participate in compliance checks of tobacco retailers (Editorial, Sunday, Oct. 18).
Your viewpoint condemned Bountiful as "unwittingly inviting underage smokers to break the law." You further emphasized the necessity of tobacco compliance and the lines associated stating "it wouldn't take many fines to end illegal purchases."According to Davis County Health Department statistics, anywhere from 11 percent to 19 percent of the retailers continue to sell tobacco to minors and this after the Health Department's touted six-year effective program against tobacco retailers. That means as many as one in every five stores checked continues to sell tobacco to minors after the Health Department has implemented this program. So much for "ending the illegal purchases."
It is not right nor is it fair for the residents of Bountiful to have their taxes diverted from important priority crime enforcement to fund a lesser priority tobacco sales program. I find it ironic that the Health Department that coerces and shames police departments into participation refuses to fund its own program. The naivete occurs in assuming that compliance checks on tobacco will end teens acquiring tobacco for personal use. In my 18 years of law enforcement experience, I have arrested enough juveniles for tobacco to know that most do not acquire their tobacco by going to several different tobacco retailers hoping to find one clerk so busy as to inadvertently sell them tobacco without checking identification. Most of the juveniles I have dealt with have found a sympathetic adult who legally purchases tobacco and then provides it to the juvenile.
The Health Department's program doesn't even begin to address this wider scope of tobacco use by teens. Bountiful continues to aggressively enforce criminal tobacco violations. For many years, Bountiful has conducted alcohol compliance testing of vendors in a similar fashion. It should be noted that 100 percent of the enforcement action on this program is paid for by taxes generated from the sale of alcohol.
Why is the Health Department too stingy to disseminate funds it receives from taxes generated by tobacco sales? Through poor management and unwise allocation of funds, the Health Department has seen fit to fund numerous internal positions whose sole objective is to produce statistics to be turned over to the FDA that in turn pad Health Department pockets. Why is it the Health Department will not fund its program similar to the way the alcohol industry has funded its program?
It is time Bountiful and the Health Department work together in enforcing tobacco laws and help to eradicate the easy accessibility of tobacco to minors. Bountiful Police Department is willing to participate with the Health Department at the same level it is willing to fund its own program. Currently that only rises to the level of 25 percent. It is hoped that the Health Department will reallocate abundant monies acquired through tobacco taxation to enforce its own programs.
Recently I wrote to Dr. David Cope, chairman of the Davis County Board of Health, and Kevin Condra, division director. I have asked them to contact me so that implementation can begin. Interestingly, I have not as yet received any communication from Dr. Cope, Mr. Condra or any other representative of the Davis County Health Department.