County: 4 stores caught selling cigarettes to minors | Columbia County
HUDSON — Columbia County Sting Operations discovered four Columbia County businesses selling tobacco products to underage customers during a three-month investigation in the county.
The Columbia County Health Department announced on Friday that it found four tobacco retailers in the county to be in violation of state law.
The four locations were identified as Charron’s Market in Chatham in September, Love’s Travel Stop in Canaan in September, Xtra Mart in Livingston in November and Elizaville Diner and Deli in Elizaville in November.
“We were a bit surprised to have people,” said Department of Health Director Jack Mabb. “I think a lot of it had to do with the places becoming a bit lax in that we weren’t going out at one point due to COVID and then we started again. So it’s a little surprising, but it happens.
New York State law does not permit the sale of cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Public health departments are required to carry out audits to ensure that tobacco retailers are in compliance.
Teenagers are enlisted as customers asking to buy cigarettes, but the jobs are hard to fill.
“In fact, it was very difficult to find children to do it. The state wants us to use 19 or 20 year olds to do it,” Mabb said. “There are so many jobs there and it’s a very sporadic thing. We do this about three times a year. We pay them $60 for three hours of work.
Teenagers are trained by the Department of Health, Mabb said. They watch a video and the department tells them what they want teenagers to do and say.
“So they walk into the store and we follow them a few minutes later,” Mabb said. “I did when I was a technician. What we usually do in a lot of these convenience stores, you stand in the candy aisle because that’s the aisle they want to watch. You have a line straight to the cash register so you can see the actual sale happening.
The individual hired by the Department of Health tries to buy cigarettes, Mabb said. If the person working in the store sells them to the underage person, they are breaking state law. The minor then leaves the store.
“If they sell them, we come up and tell them you just sold cigarettes to a minor,” Mabb said. “We fill out the paperwork and tell them they’re coming to a hearing. We send them a stipulation in the mail, they can stipulate and just pay the fine or they can show up for a hearing. We don’t have too many people coming in for a hearing, I mean, what can you say. »
The fine for a first offense of selling to a minor is $350, a second offense is $500 and the fine for a third offense is $1,000, Mabb said. If a business is caught making two sales to underage people within three years, it loses its license to sell lottery tickets for six months, Mabb said. He explained that the loss of lottery ticket sales is a big financial blow for these companies.
“It’s happened many times over the years,” Mabb said. “It’s a big hit, we had a retailer at one of the truck stops years ago who said he lost $100,000 as a result.”
Columbia County has 75 tobacco retail outlets, Mabb said. He explained that the state sends the DOH lists of all retailers that sell tobacco products and that the DOH should go to all the different locations to see if they sell to underage people each year.
“Then if we have stores that are selling, we have to go back more frequently,” Mabb said.
The state requires that similar operations be organized regarding the sale of alcohol. The sheriff’s office handles checks on the sale of alcohol to underage people, Mabb said.
New York changed the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 in 2019.