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    Tobacco Suspension Challenged

    F.L. Roberts & Co claims Northampton law unconstitutional.

    NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- A Massachusetts judge will decide whether the seven-day suspension of a tobacco-sale license for a Northampton Mobil On the Run convenience store will stand.

    A lawyer for the Springfield, Mass.-based F.L. Roberts & Co., which operates the unit, asked a Hampshire Superior Court Judge to prevent the city of Easthampton from suspending the company's license to sell tobacco the convenience store. The city's health board voted to suspend the license, a penalty which started Sunday, for a week, after learning that a clerk sold cigarettes to a 17-year-old during a sting operation last month.

    F.L. Roberts, in seeking an injunction to halt the suspension, claims the city can fine the company but not suspend its license, according to the Hampshire (Mass.) Gazette.

    Bernadette Harrigan, which owns approximately 15 convenience stores around the region, argued that the board's action isn't valid under state law. She also said the compliance checks are unconstitutional and that the regulations and ensuing publicity cause the company irreparable harm.

    The store sold cigarettes to a minor on June 5, according to the city Board of Health. The station has been cited four previous times for underage cigarette sales, the report said. State regulations allow local boards of health to fine a store $100 for the first time it is caught selling cigarettes to a minor, $200 for the second offense and $300 for any subsequent offenses.

    The suspension will remain in effect in the meantime until the judge's ruling, which is expected tomorrow.

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