Six stores in Lincoln County passed a tobacco sales compliance check recently and one failed.

Investigators with the Nebraska State Patrol conducted the operation with the help of a 16-year-old minor who tried to buy the tobacco at the stores.

A clerk at Time Saver at 1220 S. Dewey did not ask for identification, made the sale, and was cited, NSP said.

A total of 47 businesses were checked in the Troop D area of western Nebraska. All but three refused to sell to the minor, for a compliance rate of 93.6%.

Three of the compliant stores were in North Platte — City Discount Liquor, Love’s Travel Stop and Gary’s Super Foods on East Fourth.

Mac’s Super Foods in Wallace, Kwik Stop in Hershey and Longhorn Bar in Sutherland were also checked. Clerks there also refused to sell to the underage person.

Gary Suhr, the owner of Gary’s Super Foods, said compliance is very important and their clerks “all know our expectations.” Suhr said all their registers are programmed to scan a driver’s license and immediately indicate whether the customer is over 18, the legal age to buy tobacco in Nebraska.

 

Legal age moves to 19

Those registers will need to be reprogrammed on Jan. 1 because the sales age goes up to 19, as a result of the enactment of LB 149 last spring in the state legislature.

Wal-Mart got ahead of legal requirements, raising its tobacco sales age to 21 throughout the U.S. on July 21. Walgreens made the same change on Sept. 1.

North Platte Police Officer Beth Kerr teaches skills for tobacco and alcohol retailers, such as recognizing proper identification.

North Platte businesses are required by city ordinance to take the class, and Kerr said retailers outside the city are also welcome to participate.

“We appreciate the work of local law enforcement, businesses, schools, parents and others in keeping our youth free of tobacco,” said George Haws, the coordinator of Community Connections Tobacco Free Lincoln County, a partnership that receives funding from Tobacco Free Nebraska.

Nebraska revised Statue 28-1425 states that anyone who sells tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, to someone under the legal age, is guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.

If the violation occurs with the knowledge of the store operator, the operator can also be cited, Haws said.