Store clerks in Salisbury, Concord cited for selling tobacco to minors

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.
In Concord, two stores were cited: D’s Express, 223 Cabarrus Ave. W., clerk Tuwamo Mangika; and Petro Express 3960, 1529 Concord Parkway N., clerk Wendy Haviland.
As part of the state’s 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 younger than 18.
“Since starting these checks five years ago, we have seen the number of underage tobacco sales drop significantly,” said ALE Director William Chandler. “We will continue to conduct unannounced compliance checks at retail sales outlets to ensure young people cannot purchase cigarettes or any other tobacco product.”
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 person’s activity with theft or other criminal activities.
“It’s easy for a store clerk to identify an underage person,” Chandler said. “A red border around the driver’s license means the person is under the age of 18. If you see red, the tobacco sale is dead.”
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. Selling tobacco to an underage person is a class II misdemeanor.