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Minnesota's Dakota County Health Department is attempting to discourage underage drinking and smoking by eliminating access to the products and reducing demand.
In two reports recently covered by Sun Newspapers, the Health Department detailed progress in those areas. The “Youth Access to Tobacco in Dakota County: 2004 Progress Report” found that the rate of illegal tobacco sales to underage youth declined from 25 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2004.
“Over the past 10 years, Public Health Department staff have worked closely with schools, parents, retailers and local law enforcement to reduce illegal sales, and we’re starting to see the results of those efforts in these improved rates,” said Dakota County Commissioner Kathy Gaylord, chair of the County Board’s Community Services Committee.
The 2004 Dakota County rate is also below the Minnesota average of 15 percent illegal sales. The report found almost all tobacco retailers in the county (94 percent) were checked at least once in 2004, as required by state law.
Smoking by Dakota County teens has also declined in recent years. The 2004 Minnesota Student Survey found that from 1998 to 2004 the rate of cigarette use in the past 30 days by Dakota County 12th graders decreased from 43 percent to 27 percent. The decline in the rate for Dakota County ninth-graders was even greater, dropping from the 1998 rate of 31 percent to 13 percent in 2004.
The “Youth Access to Alcohol in Dakota County: 2004 Progress Report” found the rate of illegal alcohol sales to underage youth was 9 percent in 2004, and has not changed significantly since 2001. However, fewer alcohol checks were conducted in 2004, and 129 liquor outlets, or about 36 percent of the stores in the county, were not checked last year.
Still, alcohol use by Dakota County teens has declined in recent years. The 2004 Minnesota Student Survey found that from 1992 to 2004 the percentage of Dakota County 12th-graders who report drinking alcohol in the past year decreased from 79 percent to 65 percent. The rate for Dakota County ninth-graders dropped from 60 percent in 1992 to 40 percent in 2004. The rate for sixth-graders also decreased, declining from 23 percent in 1992 to 9 percent in 2004.