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TAUNTON, Mass. -- When it comes to selling tobacco to minors, merchants will no longer have room for error.
Effective immediately, businesses that are found selling tobacco to minors will have to pay a $100 fine for the first offense. Board of Health policy had allowed businesses to be censured, but not fined for first-time infractions, according to The Taunton Gazette.
The board said the harsher penalties were necessary for a variety of reasons, including city budget problems and warnings from a local tobacco group that the number of tobacco compliance checks performed in the city yearly would be trimmed in the upcoming months because of budget concerns.
Under city policy, a hired minor is sent into local stores to request tobacco products. The businesses that fail to ask for identification and sell tobacco to minors then face fines. The minors do not carry any forms of identification when purchasing tobacco.
After much debate yesterday, the board said it would refund a first-offense fine if a business owner completed a merchant education class within one month of the alleged infraction.
Board of Health Chairman Nason Burden warned that the board may also alter its policy to require businesses to attend additional merchant education classes for second and third offenses.