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    New York to Ease Tobacco Sales Laws

    Bill would also provide incentives for retailers to better train employees through a state-certified program.

    ALBANY, N.Y. -- In an effort to give retailers a break, New York State is preparing to introduce a plan to ease sanctions against stores that sell cigarettes to minors, The New York Post has learned.

    Final legislative passage is expected this week on a bill that reworks a two-year- old law that convenience store owners argued was too harsh and could force many to close. The current law dictates that retailers caught three times selling cigarettes to minors must lose their registration to sell tobacco for a year ? and have their license to sell lottery tickets revoked permanently.

    Under the pending legislation, the Health Department would establish a system to assess penalty points every time a store is caught selling tobacco to minors, much like drivers receive points from the Department of Motor Vehicles for traffic infractions, the report said.

    An illegal sale could incur either one or two penalty points, depending on the circumstances established by investigators. If a store reaches three points within a 36-month period, its licenses for tobacco and lottery sales would be suspended for six months, but not permanently revoked. A store's slate would be wiped clean after three years or after the suspension was served.

    Bill sponsor Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) lobbied on behalf of retailers who feared accidental infractions by new staff or a lazy attitude to selling cigarettes could crush their businesses. "I don't want to kill someone who runs a store because someone he hired doesn't care what he's doing," Weisenberg told The Post.

    The bill also would provide incentives for store owners to better train employees through a state-certified program. Stores will be able to gain "credits" against penalty points by fully embracing the training program.

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