Tobacco Sting 08/19/99

PHONE: 961-2254
AUGUST 12, 1999


Big Island police officers have cited 18 retailers in Kona and Hilo for illegally selling tobacco products to young people under the age of 18.

Working with the State Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division and the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Research Center, police conducted sting operations in Kona and and Hilo on separate weekends.

The sting operations were conducted on June 29 and 30, 1999, at 43 outlets in Kona and on Saturday (August 14, 1999) at 40 retail outlets in Hilo. Police issued citations to 10 retail employees in Kona and to eight employees in Hilo.

Both federal regulations and state law make it a violation to sell tobacco in any form to anyone younger than 18. A first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and subsequent offenses by a fine of up to $2,000.

Retail outlets selling tobacco products are also required to prominently display signs informing customers that they must be at least 18 years old to buy any kind of tobacco product.

Police conducted the sting operation to crack down on violators of the tobacco law and to check whether retailers are complying with the signage requirement.

“We are concerned about widespread disregard for the tobacco law as well as the health hazards of smoking,” a department spokesman said. “Nicotine in tobacco is a highly addictive drug, and the law is aimed at protecting our young people from getting addicted.

“We will continue to enforce the law, and we urge Big Island retailers both to familiarize themselves with the law and to comply with it.

“These results should serve as a wake-up call to merchants and store clerks to obey the law — ask for proof of age and do not sell tobacco products to minors.”

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