Four in Rowan charged with selling tobacco to minors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

Four clerks at Rowan County convenience stores were charged with selling tobacco to underage children in November when N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents checked stores in the region.

During November, the state agents checked 137 retail establishments in Rowan, Cabarrus, Stanly, Mecklenburg and Gaston counties and cited 20 store clerks for selling tobacco to underage children.

In Rowan, agents charged Barbara Nance at Pit Stop 15, 2412 S. Main St., Salisbury; Kelly Jeane Archer at Kangaroo Express 130, 264 E. Main St., Rockwell; Debra Powers at Gas N Go Food and Beverage, 304 S. Salisbury Ave., Granite Quarry; and Jill Warner at West Rowan Grill, 8870 Statesville Blvd., Cleveland.

In addition, agents charged Ida Potts at Kountry Market, 12955 Bring Ferry Road, Richfield, as well as clerks at four Concord stores. Those stores were Sams Mart 38, 6886 Poplar Tent Road; On the Run 110, 4662 Davidson Highway; Accel, 8100 Poplar Tent Road; and Carolina Fast Mart 7, 215 Davidson Highway.

As part of a statewide Tobacco Compliance Check Campaign, ALE agents issued a criminal citation to each of the store clerks who allegedly sold cigars, cigarettes, snuff or bulk tobacco to customers who were younger than 18 years-old.

“Store clerks have no excuse for selling tobacco to minors,” ALE Director Mike Robertson said in a press release. “All it takes is a quick glance at a driver’s license photo and the color of the border around that photo. A red border means the person is too young to be buying tobacco products.” Three state agencies are part of a Red Flag compliance check campaign to prompt retailers to check for a red border around the photo on N.C. drivers’ licenses every time someone asks for tobacco products.

The campaign slogan says, “If you see red, the tobacco sale is dead.”

While those under 18 years of age have the red border, those 18 to 20 years of age have a yellow border around their license, showing they may purchase tobacco but not alcohol, and a green border means the person is 21 years of age and may purchase alcohol or tobacco.

Clerks at most of the stores tested refused to sell tobacco the underage customer. According to Alcohol Law Endorsement, stores passing the test included: 18 in Salisbury, Spencer and East Spencer; six in Cleveland-Woodleaf; two in Gold Hill-Rockwell; three in Kannapolis; three in Richfield; 17 in Concord; and 21 in Albemarle.

“Thankfully, retail outlets are taking these compliance checks more seriously and are doing a better job of training their store clerks to ensure they are complying with state tobacco laws,” Robertson said in the press release. “We are serious about enforcing the state’s tobacco laws, and hoping this compliance campaign will help save lives.”

Statistics show:

* The average age that people start smoking is 13.

* More than 200,000 people under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking.

* 24,000 youths become new smokers in North Carolina each year.

* Ninety percent of adult smokers in North Carolina began using cigarettes before age 18.

* The nicotine in tobacco is more addictive than heroin. Tobacco has long been called a gateway drug and experts say the escalation from the use of tobacco products to other drugs increases the likelihood of a young person’s activity with theft or other criminal activities.

For more information on the Red Flag Campaign, go on the Internet to www.