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    Pa. Governor Signs Landmark Tobacco Bill

    Legislation to restrict the sale of tobacco to minors follows a 69-cent increase in the state cigarette tax.

    HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Reaffirming his commitment to stop children from smoking cigarettes and using tobacco, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker signed into law sweeping legislation to crack down on retailers selling tobacco to minors.

    "I eagerly signed this bill today because we must do everything in our power to protect the health and future of Pennsylvania's children," Schweiker said. "Too many young Pennsylvanians aren't getting the message that smoking kills. Last year, 12.8 million packs of cigarettes were sold illegally to kids. That's 12.8 million reasons to crack down on illegal sales, and that's exactly what this law will do."

    In the 2002-03 budget signed by Schweiker last month, Pennsylvania's cigarette tax was tripled to an even $1 per pack, after the latest sting operation by the Department of Health revealed that, after much effort to reverse the trend, scores of minors were still able to walk into retail stores and purchase cigarettes illegally.

    "Raising the tax was done to dissuade children from buying cigarettes," Schweiker said. "This legislation makes it clear that retailers who are caught selling to minors will face fines as high as $5,000 and revocation of their license to sell tobacco for up to five years.

    "As I've said, there are plenty of retailers out there doing the right thing, but there's others who simply don't get it -- and that's who this bill targets. And we're also putting kids on notice, too -- get caught trying to buy cigarettes and you will face penalties."

    The penalty for a minor who violates the act shall be determined at the discretion of the court and may include any of the following:
    * Up to 75 hours of community service;
    * Completion of a tobacco cessation program approved by the state Department of Health;
    * A maximum fine of $200; and
    * A 30-day suspension of motor-vehicle operating privileges.

    The legislation also restricts tobacco vending machines to bars and other establishments in which children under age 18 may not enter and requires clerks to request anyone who appears to be under the age of 25 to show a photo ID.

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