WAVERLY – Lincoln and Lancaster County agencies recently announced that vapor product sales to minors in Lancaster County have increased for the second consecutive year, jumping from 7.25% in 2019 to 13.5% this year. Annual compliance checks are a combined effort among the Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department (LLCHD), the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office (LSO).
LPD Captain Jason Stille said the sharp increase, combined with a 1.5% increase in the sale of other tobacco products to minors, is a growing concern.
“Despite the risks from vaping, we believe social influences continue to drive young people to use vapor products. Collectively, our local retailers have placed great attention on denying sales to minors, and we appreciate their efforts,” Stille said.
Vapor products are regulated by the FDA as tobacco products. They include e-cigarettes and any device that is capable of containing a substance, often nicotine, for inhalation.
During 2020, youth volunteers made 321 attempts to purchase tobacco or vapor products from convenience stores, tobacco shops, and vapor shops. Attempts to purchase vapor product accounted for 52 (16%) of the 321 total checks. Local agencies added vapor compliance checks to their annual tobacco compliance checks in 2017.
“Working in partnership provides valuable perspectives, critical expertise, and needed resources to help address tobacco and vapor sales to minors,” said LSO Captain Mike Peschong. “We know youth get most of their vapor and tobacco products from social sources. We urge everyone to be diligent and to not provide products to youth under 21.”
A 2019 Lancaster County Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicated that nearly 78% of young people using vapor products got them from social sources. Examples include borrowing products, giving money to someone else to purchase products, and receiving products from someone of legal age. Purchasing directly in a retail location is the next most common method for youth to obtain vapor products (7%).
Retailers have been directed to follow the recently amended state law raising the minimum tobacco and vapor product purchase age to 21. This change went into effect Oct. 1, 2020. Prior to that, the state sales age was 19.
“We are happy that the state law was amended to bring Nebraska into compliance with the federal minimum purchase age. This should help retailers as well by simplifying age requirements,” said Sophia Yelkin, health educator with LLCHD.
LPD, LSO, and LLCHD are among 20 community partners of the Tobacco Free Lancaster County Coalition. The coalition’s priorities are to keep youth from starting to use tobacco and vapor products; to reduce access to tobacco and vapor products; and to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol. Funding for the compliance checks is provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
For more information on LLCHD’s tobacco prevention efforts and youth tobacco use rates, visit lincoln.ne.gov/tobacco.