Volunteers check Sunnyside stores don't aim alcohol, tobacco at kids

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- Strict rules govern the way alcohol and tobacco can be advertised. A big issue is making sure they don't appeal to kids. Now volunteers in Sunnyside want to clean up local stores even more.

"Hi, I'm Marissa. I'm Cathy."

Cathy Kelley is surveying a local convenience store. As a coordinator for Sunnyside United, Cathy looks for things like where alcohol and tobacco ads are placed, how many ads there are, and if alcohol, tobacco, or e-cigarettes are easily accessible to kids. She even checks whether stores offer healthy food.

"Our hope would certainly be that we would have an impact on them and that they would look at how they display things at their store," she said.

Sunnyside United plans to survey more than 20 stores and help them fall in line with rules set up by the city and the state. For example, a store can have no more than four signs advertising alcohol outside, and the ads can't be near a school. Those out of compliance could be reported to code enforcement.

"I have a granddaughter that will be growing up, and I'm really, really concerned about these things that I know are going to hurt her," said Anita Espinoza.

Cathy says the Maverik store on Lincoln Avenue is following the rules, but KIMA saw another store that wasn't: It had too many outside signs advertising alcohol. The store owner told us he didn't know that was against the rules and took down the extra ads as soon as we told him.

"Our future are these children, and we really need to work on that, and it really makes me happy to know that there are people that care," said Espinoza.

Safe Yakima Valley surveyed more than a dozen local stores in the spring. It says some outside alcohol ads were removed after the surveys. The group is meeting next month to discuss expanding the program.