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Cabarrus, Rowan clerks caught selling tobacco products to underage customers

Clerks at Rowan and Cabarrus convenience store accounted for almost half of the citations in a recent crackdown on sale of tobacco products to underage customers.

In an ongoing effort to keep minors from purchasing tobacco products, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agents checked 102 retail establishments in Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Gaston counties last month.

They cited 17 store clerks for underage tobacco sales, including six clerks at Rowan County stories and two stores in Cabarrus.

Clerks were cited at the following Rowan County stores:

* Express Mart of N.C., 3109 N. Main St., Kannapolis.

* Kountry Market, 12955 Bringle Ferry Road, Richfield.

* Food Lion, 525 Jake Alexander Blvd. W., Salisbury.

* Pops Country Store, 5285 U.S. 601 N, Salisbury.

* Mighty Duo Party Pak, 702 W. Horah St., Salisbury.

* Superior Mart, 830 Jake Alexander Blvd., Salisbury.

Clerks were cited at the following Cabarrus County stores:

* Express Shoppe, 540 Lake Concord Road, Concord.

* S M Mart, 5501 Popular Tent Road, Concord.

State officials did not include the names of the clerks in a release on the citations.

“Overall, clerks working in retail outlets do a good job checking identification and verifying that their customers are of legal age to purchase tobacco products,” ALE Director Mike Robertson said in the press release. “For those who do not check, the fine can be steep.”

Selling tobacco to an underage person is a Class II misdemeanor, and a District Court judge may fine the violator up to $1,000 or order as much as 30 days community service.

A store clerk can determine if a customer is of legal age by the color codes on a person’s driver’s license. A red border means the bearer is less than 18 years old.

“If you see red, the tobacco sale is dead,” is the slogan for a statewide Retailer Education Campaign that started in 2005 to remind retail employees to refuse the sale of tobacco products to underage persons.

“The good news is that during the past few years, the number of stores out of compliance has been decreasing,” Robertson said. “ALE agents will continue their enforcement efforts to help prevent underage tobacco sales.”

ALE is the lead agency for the Tobacco Education and Compliance Check Program, and works with the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services and the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund. The N.C. Retail Merchants Association and the N.C. Association of Convenience Stores supports the tobacco campaign.

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