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    A "Stinging" Blow

    Iowa city cracks down on tobacco sales, stores faces license suspensions.

    COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- About two dozen Council Bluffs, Iowa, businesses have been caught selling tobacco products to minors during the past year as part of tougher enforcement of Iowa's tobacco laws, a city attorney said.

    "The number is more than it should be," Shelly Sedlak, a assistant city attorney, told The (Iowa) Daily Nonpareil. "Some were caught twice in a close time frame."

    State law forbids businesses to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18, according to The Nonpareil.

    There have been businesses caught in the past during "sting operations," but the city has been working more closely with the Iowa Attorney General's office in the last 12 to 18 months to impose the mandatory penalty for underage tobacco sales, Sedlak said.

    The City Council will vote today on whether to impose penalties on 10 of those businesses.

    One of them, Taylor Quik-Pik, has been cited with a third violation within the last three years. The mandatory penalty on this is a 60-day suspension of its cigarette sales permit. The other nine businesses have been cited for a first offense. The mandatory penalty for this is a $300 fine. Those businesses include Kum & Go, Sam's Club, Shubby's Food Mart and Howell's Amoco, the report said.

    About 13 other businesses, whose identities were not available, plan to go before the City Council this week to appeal their citations. It's also possible that some of the nine businesses that have agreed to their penalty may still appeal to the courts, Sedlak said.

    A $300 fine for a first offense isn't much of a penalty, Sedlak noted, but if a business is caught a second or third time, that can hurt, she said. A second offense carries a 30-day tobacco license suspension.

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