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Sheriff C.J. Ryan

MUSCATINE — Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office has taken a pledge to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of youth.

To do that, they will partner with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division to use the I-PLEDGE program to educate local retailers and enforce the law governing these products.

“The main goal of this program is to curb the sale and usage of underage tobacco," said Sheriff C.J. Ryan.

Most Muscatine retailers avoid selling tobacco products to minors, but joining the I-PLEDGE program can increase the statewide compliance rate. Since the program’s inception in 2000, the statewide tobacco compliance rate has grown to 91%.

The program focuses on education, teaching clerks through an online training course. Clerks who pass an exam on the material become I-PLEDGE certified, which offers the business an affirmative defense against a civil penalty if the certified clerk accidentally makes an illegal sale. Ryan said it also helps clerks learn how to refuse underage customers.

Deputies enlist underage consumers to conduct compliance checks on local establishments, both resident-owned and chain stores, as part of the program. Clerks who sell to the youth are immediately cited, with the initial $100 fine increasing with each offense.

“By partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, we hope to educate clerks and maintain a compliant retail environment in our community,” Ryan said.

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