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The Tobacco Free Partnership and DeSoto County Sheriff's Office Work to Strengthen Enforcement of Tobacco Sales in DeSoto County
December 8, 2021

To protect people, especially youth, from the hazards of using and being exposed to tobacco products, we work on many initiatives here locally. One major area of concern we have been working on lately is raising awareness on tobacco at the retail point of sale.  

The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars in the retail environment – marketing efforts are aimed directly at our kids. Essentially, the tobacco industry is buying shelf space to keep tobacco visible and offering price discounts to keep tobacco cheap. These companies are no fool, what they are really “buying” is youth who initiate – who become adults who can’t quit!

In 2019, The federal government declared youth vaping a nationwide epidemic and we have deeply felt that impact on our local community. According to the 2020 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, 29.9% of youth in DeSoto County ages 11-17 have tried electronic vaping.

In efforts to combat this epidemic, the Tobacco Free Partnership of DeSoto County has been deep in the retail realm of the tobacco industry for the past several years conducting local Tobacco Retail Assessments, meeting with retailers to ensure compliance, educating decision makers, and now, partnering with local law enforcement to crack down on sales to minors.

Tobacco Free Partnership Members educated attendees at the DeSoto County Sherriff’s National Night Out on the dangers of tobacco use and social norms in our community. (Pictured L to R: Major Andrew Proudfit, Asya Shine, Jodie DeLoach, Will Jackson, and Sheriff Jim Potter)

The Special Operations Unit at DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting alcohol compliance checks for years, and now that the minimum age to purchase tobacco is also 21, they recently started including tobacco as part of the compliance checks. During the buys, DCSO partners with underage youth who attempt to purchase both alcohol and tobacco.

A few of the most notable concerns from a recent round of compliance checks performed in DeSoto County:

During point-of-sale assessments, it was found that not a single retailer in DeSoto County had signage stating ID was required for Electronic Devices. In addition to partnering with DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office to crack down on enforcement, we have partnered with Drug Free DeSoto to provide proper signage to alcohol and tobacco to retailers. We are also planning to highlight retailers who are following federal laws by providing certificates. 

DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office and Drug Free DeSoto have both been active members of our Tobacco Free Partnership the past several years. “This has been a very comprehensive and lengthy process; however, it has also been an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. We are grateful for these members and their support in our efforts to stop another generation of becoming addicted to tobacco.” says Community Health Advocate Jodie DeLoach. 

Tobacco poses a significant - and avoidable - health risk to our community! We cannot stand by and allow tobacco to attack another generation of young Americans. We must do our part as community leaders and parents and protect our youth from the deadly addiction to tobacco products! If you would like to collaborate or join our efforts, please contact Jodie DeLoach