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JACKSON, Calif. -- Retail stores in Amador County, Calif. still have a long way to go regarding restricting the sale of tobacco to minors.
A sting organized by the Amador County Sheriff's Office, Tobacco Reduction of Amador County (TRAC) and the police departments of Ione, Jackson and Sutter Creek found 21 percent of the stores targeted sold tobacco to a minor. In all, 36 stores were involved in the operation, with eight of them selling the products to an underage person who was working with law enforcement.
Ken Peebles of TRAC is concerned with Amador County's numbers.
"Amador County's rate of sales of tobacco to minors is almost double what the state average is - that's unacceptable," Peebles said, adding the laws need to be stronger. "A clerk who is caught selling to a minor) is fined, but the owner is not."
Clerks are fined $200 on their first offense with more levied for continued offenses, he said.
Peebles said more needs to be done. Restricting tobacco sales to retailers with a special license is one way this could be accomplished, he said. The retailers could then be fined accordingly when their clerks sell to minors. Licensing retailers would curb the sales because storeowners would be faced with having their license to sell tobacco products pulled, similar to the way a liquor license works.
In addition, minors receive citations and fines of $75 for being caught smoking or trying to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products. They can also be required to take a smoking diversion class. Peebles said that in the period of January to June of this year, 15 kids in the county have taken the class.