Inspections were made of 175 businesses that sell tobacco in Rockford and other parts of Winnebago County. (NOTE: Loves Park and Rockton police agencies conduct their own inspections.) Those businesses where youths were able to buy cigarettes this past fall included the following Rockford sites: Vista Marketing Group, 39 Airport Road; the Shell Service Station, 913 Kilburn; La Familia Fresh Foods, 1414 South Main St.; El Jalisco, 901 Cunningham; The It Drive-in Liquor Store, 3216 Auburn; Gray’s IGA Food Store, 3214 Auburn; Noble’s Grocery, 529 W. Jefferson; 11th St. Pop & Stop, 2635 11th Street; and the Lucky Food Mart, 425 15th Avenue.
Sites outside of Rockford’s city limits that sold, inspected by county officers, included: Road Ranger, 4980 South Main St. in Rockford; Mike’s One Stop, 528 Main St. in Pecatonica; Tobacco City at 404 Gardner Ave. and Mobil Quick & Save East, 1403 Pate Plaza Rd., both in South Beloit. Also selling to minors were the Marathon gas station, 8320 No. 2nd St. and the CVS Pharmacy, 8001 N. 2nd St., both in Machesney Park.
The tobacco compliance checks are coordinated by the Winnebago County Health Department with support from local law enforcement agencies (Rockford Police Department, the Cherry Valley Police Department and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office.) Trained youths, 15-17 years old, observed by undercover police officers, ask to buy cigarettes at local businesses and, if requested, show their legal ID, which indicates that they are underage. If a clerk sells to the youth, the clerk is then cited and will be required to pay a fine of approximately $200 for “selling or furnishing tobacco products to a minor.” The program is designed to reduce youth access to tobacco products and has been funded by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, using funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.