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Linn County Sheriff's Office to focus on tobacco enforcement

I-PLEDGE program aims to educate retailers about laws

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office in southwest Cedar Rapids is shown in this photo taken in 2005. (Gazette File Photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division on a program to educate retailers about the state’s tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor product laws.

The program is known as I-PLEDGE.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, since I-PLEDGE was launched in 2000, Iowa’s compliance rate with tobacco laws has grown to 91 percent.

Under the program, clerks at outlets that sell tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products will go through an online training course and then pass an exam to become I-PLEDGE certified. Businesses that are certified can use their I-PLEDGE designation as an affirmative defense against a civil penalty if the certified clerk makes an illegal tobacco sale.

“I-PLEDGE’s retailer training is a great way for clerks to prepare themselves to refuse illegal tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor product sales,” Sheriff Brian Gardner said in a statement. “The training also assists retailers to ensure they maintain a compliant and responsible establishment.”

Gardner said deputies also will be doing tobacco compliance checks on county businesses as part of the program. Under the supervision of deputies, underage customers will enter businesses and attempt to buy tobacco products. Those who make the sale will be cited and face a fine ranging from $100 for first offense to $500 for third and subsequent offenses.

“By partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, we hope to educate clerks and maintain a compliant retail environment in our community,” Gardner said in a statement. “Moreover, we pledge to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.

I-PLEDGE training can be found at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division’s website, abd.iowa.gov.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com