The City of Madison announced Tuesday that illegal sales of tobacco products to minors had dropped between 2016 and 2017.
In 182 checks on businesses in Dane County outside the city, they found a sales rate of 4 percent, a decrease from the 2016 level of 20 percent.
Public Health Madison and Dane County conducted 138 compliance checks on Madison places of business that sell tobacco products and found a sales rate of 13 percent to minors in 2017, down from the 19 percent mark in 2016.
Checks conducted by public health staff involved sending 16- and 17 year-old inspectors to purchase tobacco at various businesses, such as gas stations and pharmacies.
If the underaged inspectors successfully bought the tobacco products, the business incurred a fine of $73.60, with an additional $73.60 fine for the store clerk who completed the transaction.
For 2018, the fine for businesses has been increased to $155.50, with the clerk fine remaining the same.
In the announcement of their findings, Madison officials attributed the drop in sales mostly to the ease with which clerks could identify minors, because IDs would list their birth years as 2000 or 2001, making them easily identifiable as minors. The city also cited the increased promotion of their Tobacco Check online training program as a reason for the drop.
The free program, which aims to educate business owners and clerks on tobacco sales to minors, has been utilized by about one-third of businesses in Dane County.