Commercial Tobacco-Free Living Mission
The intent of this strategy is to improve the commercial tobacco retail environment by reducing the community’s exposure to tobacco products and marketing. This can be accomplished through local ordinance changes. SHIP staff will pursue and implement evidence-based approaches that will lead to decreased youth access and exposure to tobacco marketing practices.
The goals of this strategy are to:
- Decrease commercial tobacco exposure and use
- Improve enforcement and compliance with youth access and retail regulatory laws
- Increase community awareness of tobacco industry practices
- Reduce tobacco-related disparities
SHIP staff have been educating community stakeholders to inform and educate the public and decision makers about the public health concerns related to the tobacco retail environment. While a local (city or county) retail license is required to sell tobacco products and related devices (including electronic cigarettes) in Minnesota, some local licensing regulations have fallen out of compliance with state and federal laws and need updating. Tobacco retail licensing ordinances (as well as retail licensing fees) drive mandatory compliance monitoring programs, establish strong penalty structures, and will often include additional, more comprehensive tobacco control regulations beyond the minimums specifically required in state law (Chapter 461 of the Minnesota Statutes).
Updates & Improvements
SHIP staff have started conversations with cities in Benton County about updating and strengthening local licensing, compliance, and enforcement laws and practices to ensure that they meet state requirements, provide clear and comprehensive definitions, and include robust and self-sustaining compliance programs.
Required Training for Tobacco Retailers:
Stop Sales to Minors Training: This (free) training is required for every employee of a tobacco retailer that is licensed by Benton County, per Benton County Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance (Section 400, Subdivision 13). All licensees must ensure that all employees go through the training, as it focuses on federal and state laws for tobacco retailers and their employees, the legal requirements relating to the sale of licensed tobacco products, and the possible consequences for violations. The training was created by the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota in 2016 and updated in 2020 after the Minnesota Legislature passed Tobacco 21, raising the tobacco sales age to 21. It was done with assistance from the Public Health Law Center and the MN DHS-Behavioral Health Division.
Licensees must maintain and provide to the County documentation demonstrating compliance at the time of renewal, or whenever requested during the license term. Records will be randomly audited by Benton County Public Health Staff. If after inspection, it is found that employees have not completed the required training, the licensee will be required to come into compliance within a time frame specified by Benton County Public Health. Failure to come into compliance may result in a fine, suspension or revocation pursuant to Section 1200 of the Benton County Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance. Below is an employee roster that can be used to track the date that each employee completed the training. Any questions related to the training can be directed to Benton County Public Health at 320.968.5250.
*Certificates of Completion for each employee must also be submitted as documentation to the County. The Certificate of Completion will be emailed to each trainee after the entire training is completed*
Other Resources for Tobacco Retailers:
Age Verification Calendar: Order a FREE digital, programmable age verification calendar to help employees determine if a customer is old enough to legally purchase tobacco products based on their date of birth.
This is Our Watch Program Materials: includes a mix of educational pieces for owners, managers, and clerks, as well as a variety of point-of-purchase tools to inform customers of tobacco laws and emphasizes the retailer’s role (posters, register stickers, regulation flyers, register signage, instruction booklets, etc).