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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As the owner of three convenience stores in the Southtowns, David Garlock lives in fear that one of his employees will sell beer or tobacco to a minor. The penalty used to be that stores caught twice for selling tobacco to a minor would lose their tobacco and lottery licenses for six months -- no matter how far apart the violations or what they did to try to prevent the underage sale.
"I feel like I'm walking around with my head on the chopping block," Garlock, who owns E-Z Shops in Springville, Arcade and Boston, N.Y., told The Buffalo News. "It's eventually going to happen. People make mistakes."
But a change in the state law gives Garlock and other retailers credit for training employees through state-approved programs. The new law replaces the two-strikes law with a point system - similar to the one used for driver's licenses. The law took effect in October but had a grace period that expired June 28.
Retailers caught selling tobacco to minors get two points on their licenses. After three points, the retailer's tobacco and lottery licenses would be suspended for six months. However, the state removes one point if the employee was trained under a state-approved program. And the points disappear three years after the violation.
"The law creates an incentive for responsible store owners to train their people or send their employees to a training class to learn the proper techniques for selling tobacco and preventing underage sales," said James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores.
The association, in conjunction with the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, is offering state-approved training programs. Larger chains such as Tops Markets, which also owns Wilson Farms and SugarCreek, have their own internal, state-approved programs. Noco Express Shops is in the process of getting its training program approved by the state.
"We've always had a very extensive and aggressive training program and we continue to make that a priority," said Richard Klyczek, Noco's director of operations. "We don't want alcohol and tobacco in the hands of minors."