The Ottumwa Police Department announced a pledge it took to eliminate underage smoking.
Known as I-PLEDGE, the program is a partnership with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) to educate local retailers and enforce Iowa’s tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product laws. Since the program’s inception in 2000, the statewide tobacco compliance rate has grown to 91%. By participating in the program, the Ottumwa Police Department has committed to doing its part to increase the compliance rate even more this year.
I-PLEDGE places emphasis on retailer training. Clerks who successfully complete an online training course and then pass an exam will become I-PLEDGE certified. This allows a retail establishment to use an affirmative defense against a civil penalty if the certified clerk makes an illegal sale.
I-PLEDGE’s retailer training is an opportunity for clerks to prepare themselves to refuse illegal tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product sales. The training also assists retailers to ensure they maintain a compliant and responsible establishment.
On February 1st, 2023 Ottumwa Police Officers conducted compliance checks on 30 local establishments as part of the I-PLEDGE program. Underage customers, under the supervision of law enforcement officials, entered establishments and attempted to buy tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products.
Out of the 30 local establishments checked only two were non-compliant. These establishments were Casey’s General Store located at 346 Richmond Avenue and Ross Tobacco Shop located at 129 East Second Street. The clerks who made the illegal sales were cited on the spot.
Criminal penalties for selling tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products to a minor include a $135 fine for a first offense, a $325 fine for a second offense, and a $645 fine for third and subsequent offenses. However, handing out citations is not the intent of the I-PLEDGE program.
By partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, the Ottumwa Police Department hopes to educate clerks and maintain a compliant retail environment in Ottumwa while keeping tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products out of the hands of Ottumwa’s underage persons.