HONOLULU (KHNL) - Some hopeful news in the fight against illegal tobacco sales to Hawaii's youth - a state survey shows a significant drop in the number of stores selling tobacco products to minors.
This year's survey released by the Hawaii State Department of Health's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division shows the number of tobacco sales to minors has almost been cut in half compared to last year's survey.
Much of the credit goes to some undercover teens. At the capitol on Monday, they displayed the cigarettes from actual packs they bought from stores across the state. Some were even sold, after the teens told the clerks their age.
"I guess because they have that mentality of, 'I know where you're coming from, here i'll just give it to you. I've done it when I was young', so I'm totally against that," said Victoria Milo, a KATS volunteer.
Milo is with Kruisin Against Tobacco Sales, or KATS. It's a program that sends teens on stings. They scout out stores that fail to check their ID's and sell them tobacco products. At the capitol, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona praised their work. New numbers show Hawaii is now below the national average in illegal tobacco sales.
"My father has lung cancer because of this so due to that and knowing I have friends going in the wrong direction and I'm trying to gear them towards the right direction, being a part of this program means a lot to me," said Milo.
One tobacco retailer was recognized for his zero-tolerance for sales to minors. He says he fires guilty clerks on the spot and implements a 100% ID check policy.
"The big issues my clerks have when they check somebody like your age or somebody with gray hair that that person gets totally ipset, and that happens quite often," said Al Gustavson, owner of Goose's Edge convenience stores.
But with more stores adopting a 'No ID, no sale' policy, Hawaii is on its way to snuffing out violators who cater to young smokers.