Clerks cited for underage tobacco sales

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CHARLOTTE ó During February and March, Alcohol Law Enforcement agents cited 22 store clerks in four counties for selling tobacco products to a minor. ALE agents checked 151 retail establishments in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Union counties.
In Rowan, those cited were Rushco Food Store 5, 601 Jake Alexander Blvd., clerk Lorie Johnson; Crossroads, 3900 Bringle Ferry Road, clerk Leslie Cline; and Penn Mart, 1600 S. Main St., clerk, Mary Sides.
As part of the stateís Tobacco Education and Compliance Check Program, ALE agents every month randomly check stores that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products to make sure the clerks are asking for identification and refusing sales to anyone under the age of 18.  
ěSince starting these checks five years ago, we have seen the number of underage tobacco sales drop significantly,î said ALE Director William Chandler. ěWe will continue to conduct unannounced compliance checks at retail sales outlets to ensure young people cannot purchase cigarettes or any other tobacco product.î
In Concord, two stores were cited: Dís Express, 223 Cabarrus Ave. W., clerk Tuwamo Mangika; and Petro Express 3960,1529 Concord Parkway N., clerk, Wendy Haviland.
The N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund pays for the tobacco check program to prevent young people from smoking. In North Carolina, surveys show that 90 percent of adult smokers began using cigarettes before age 18. In addition to health issues, experts say the use of tobacco products often leads to other drugs and increases the likelihood of a young personís activity with theft or other criminal activities.
ěItís easy for a store clerk to identify an underage person,î said Chandler. ěA red border around the driverís license means the person is under the age of 18. If you see red, the tobacco sale is dead.î
A District Court judge may fine a violator up to $1,000 or order community punishment of up to 30 days if the defendant has no prior convictions. If the clerk does have prior convictions, he or she could be serving time in jail, as well. Selling tobacco to an underage person is a Class II misdemeanor.