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    Retailers Beware

    Pennsylvania county designates $500,000 for tobacco stings over the next three years.

    NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Montgomery County is earmarking almost $500,000 over the next three years in an effort to enforce state and federal laws barring the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18.

    Acting on a recommendation from the county Health Department, the county commissioners earlier this month allocated $478,202 for stepped-up sting operations at every establishment in the county that sells cigarettes and/or other tobacco products to ensure that those products are not being sold to minors, the Pottstown (Pa.) Mercury reports.

    The money, which initially will go to the Montgomery County Police Chiefs Association, is to cover police overtime costs when police accompany undercover minors who will attempt to purchase tobacco products at the approximate 1,200 businesses and restaurants in the county that sell cigarettes. Federal regulations require the county to conduct three such surveillance checks at each of these 1,200 establishments every year, according to county Health Director Dr. Joseph M. DiMino.

    The county last year had a "disgraceful" overall sell rate of about 44 percent, meaning that 44 percent of the establishments visited sold tobacco products to the underage teens, according to DiMino. The money for the surveillance checks is coming from $5.66 million that the state has awarded the county from tobacco litigation settlement funds the state has received. The allocation is for a three-year period that started last May and will continue until April 30, 2005.

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