PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- The Attorney General’s office issued a new warning Friday after new numbers showed that more retailers are selling tobacco products to minors in Arizona.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich said last year, his office gave out 400 citations for those selling tobacco to minors.
This marks a big change, because the AG’s office said tobacco sales to minors had been going down.
But in 2018 that rate went up. And so far in 2019, the AG said the numbers are even higher.
They're attributing the uptick to minors coming in to buy vaping products and e-cigarettes.
To fight this, the Attorney General has a Tobacco Enforcement Unit.
They send teenagers in undercover to see if retailers will sell them tobacco
If the retailers do sell to the undercover teens, they can get fines up to a thousand dollars.
Brnovich said kids don't realize how highly addictive nicotine is, and said his task force is trying to crack down harder on retailers to curb alarming trends like “juul-ing.”
“They look like USB sticks: it’s an easy disguise. You don’t have that smell that you used to before, so this really is a public health crisis, and as Arizonans, if kids are getting addicted to tobacco at 14, 15, 16 years old, that’s going to be a lifelong problem for them,” said Brnovich.
But he also puts some of the blame on the tobacco companies themselves.
“We’ve been pushing some of the companies on… these flavored tobaccos now, like bubblegum and grape. And I have no idea, no reason why you have to flavor that, unless you’re marketing towards kids,” said Brnovich.