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Teens 15-17 years old

If you are 15-17 years old, we need your help in our tobacco retailer enforcement project. Volunteer today and help us reduce the sale of tobacco and vapor products to minors.

How do I get involved?

Youth operatives must:

  • Have a current WA State ID
  • Be 15-17 years of age
  • Have parent or guardian consent

Four easy steps to becoming a volunteer:

  1. Download the Consent Form (PDF).
  2. Read through the Youth Training Packet and have your parent or guardian sign the consent form
  3. Go to the Department of Licensing to get your ID.
  4. Call the Tobacco Prevention Program at 206-263-8271 to schedule your training.

Who are we looking for?

The Tobacco Prevention Program welcomes youth ages 15-17 to volunteer to conduct tobacco compliance checks. Youth volunteers will be trained and supervised at all times during this activity. There is no minimum requirement of hours you may volunteer.

Youth volunteers must:

  • Provide parent or guardian consent through required documents
  • Have or obtain a state-issued ID/driver's permit/license
  • Be willing and able to ask for a tobacco or electronic smoking device / vapor product
  • Be willing and able to testify in administrative hearings if needed
  • Be willing to allow photos and/or dialog to be used as evidence

Washington state driver's license indicating age older or younger than 21What is a compliance check?

A tobacco compliance check is way to test tobacco and electronic cigarette (vapor) retailers. It involves sending underage minors into various establishments where tobacco or vapor products are sold to attempt to purchase cigarettes, other tobacco products (chew), or vapor products.

Tobacco Prevention Program employees drive youth volunteers to various retailers throughout King County. Youth then enter the establishment and attempt to purchase a tobacco or vapor product. The interaction between the youth and store clerk is always closely supervised by our attending staff.

Youth Volunteers must be trained prior to conducting any compliance checks. Youth are not asked to do checks until they feel comfortable and our supervising staff feels comfortable with their understanding of the protocols.

Retailers that refuse to sell tobacco or vapor products to our underage minors are congratulated following the check. If an illegal sale is made, the Public Health employee follows up with the clerk/retailer with educational information and notice that there will be follow up from Washington State Liquor Control Board or Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Image of youth volunteer holding up evidence of a successful sale to a minorWhy are checks important?

The federal government requires compliance checks to be conducted and if states fall below 80 percent compliance, they may lose federal substance abuse funds. Compliance checks are conducted in an effort to reduce youth access to tobacco and vapor products. By refusing the sale of these age restricted products to minors, clerks make it more difficult for young people to access them and reduce the chance that they will start to smoke or become addicted to nicotine.

Compliance checks are conducted with an adult supervisor from the Tobacco Prevention Program and an underage volunteer. This is the only way we can check retailers and ensure they are not selling tobacco and vapor products to minors.

The tobacco and vapor industry continues to target young people because they constantly are losing customers from quitting smoking or by dying. If we can stop young people from smoking before the legal age of 21, they are less likely to ever start using tobacco.

Nicotine is a very addictive drug. Symptoms of addiction can appear in young kids within weeks or days after occasional smoking begins. Smoking appears to be related to the use of other chemical substances such as marijuana, alcohol, crack, and cocaine.

College students/school projects

We have a long history of working with college and graduate students for specific project internships. If you are interested in doing a school project internship, or a Master-level capstone, please contact us.