MUSCATINE, Iowa–The Muscatine Police Department has long partnered in the state’s I-Pledge program, which helps educate local retailers as well as enforce Iowa tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product laws. It focuses on the goal of keeping harmful tobacco and vape products out of the hands of Muscatine youth. Since the program’s inception in 2000, the statewide tobacco compliance rate has grown to 95%.
I-Pledge emphasizes retailer training by encouraging clerks to complete an online training program. The course ends with an exam, which allows the clerk to become I-Pledge certified. Should a certified clerk make an illegal sale, the retail establishment can use the clerk’s certification as an affirmative defense against a civil penalty. The I-Pledge’s retailer training program offers a great way for clerks to recognize and prepare themselves to refuse illegal tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor product sales to underage people.
As part of the I-Pledge program, the Muscatine Police Department conducts compliance checks at all local tobacco and vapor product retailers. Underage customers, under the supervision of their officers, will enter the establishments and attempt to buy tobacco, alternative nicotine, and vapor products. Clerks who make the illegal sales will receive citations. Criminal penalties for selling to an underage purchaser include a $100 fine for a first offense, a $200 fine for a second offense, and a $500 fine for a third or subsequent offense.
Because no one likes getting a ticket, the I-Pledge program has a goal of educating and fostering compliance, not seeing how many tickets officers can issue. The Muscatine Police Department encourages all tobacco and vapor product retailers to take the time to introduce their staff to the I-Pledge training program, which they can access online. The Muscatine Police Department would love to remember 2020 as the year that retailers showed 100% compliance and no citations issued.