This letter is in response to Friday's Empire article on local tobacco merchants complaining about fines for illegal sales.
Tobacco retailers balk at penalties for clerks' mistakes
Think of illegal sales of other highly regulated goods. What if a pharmacy sold OxyContin to a person without a prescription? How about beer for a high school student? Firearms for convicted felons of violent crimes?
Tobacco retailing is an extremely profitable business. For the right to sell tobacco, businesses are required to conform to definite regulations. Selling cigarettes to underage minors is flat out illegal, contrary to licensing regulations, and the accountability for this must inevitably fall on the holder of the tobacco retailing license.
Local merchants should not pass the buck to their staff for illegal sales, while making big bucks from selling a known addictive drug. Tobacco is irrefutably the No. 1 preventable killer of Alaskans, its morbidity reflected in cancers, heart disease, lung and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and SIDS.
I regret that some clerks have been fined and fired. I wish retailers would effectively train their clerks and own up to their responsibility to uphold public health and to protect the welfare of children.
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