City may crack down on tobacco, synthetic drugs

They city wanted to see if businesses would sell cigarettes to underage minors, and found that more than half of the ones they tested did so. Now its Regulated Industries division plans to crack down on those illegal sales. Photo used under a creative commons license courtesy Fried Dough.

Sell cigarettes to minors or peddle things like synthetic marijuana or drug-laced bath salts and you can soon lose that lucrative city license to sell tobacco.

The city public safety committee on Wednesday approved a bill that allows its Regulated Industries division to take quick action in such cases.

The full city council is expected to pass it today.

The action came after the city sent minors to 99 businesses to buy cigarettes and people in 56 of them sold to those under 18.

Some establishments offended more than others: of 54 gas stations checked, 34 sold to minors and of four hookah businesses checked all four sold tobacco to minors. The overall rate for businesses selling was about 57 percent.

Gary Majors, manager of Regulated  Industries, said enforcement on the issue has been lax for years but he believes the new law will work well.

It gives him the same power he has long had to take action against liquor licenses at businesses that sell liquor to minors.

Of hundreds of illegal liquor sales over the years, he has only had to go so far as to pull licenses on two businesses, he said.

With cigarette or liquor sales to minors, businesses get a warning the first time, can be suspended for a period the second time and face possible loss of the license after that.

It is just not financially worth risking the penalties to sell to minors, he said.

With the new tobacco law and periodic checks, he said, he thinks he can greatly reduce that almost 60 percent failure rate.

Most retailers want to be good neighbors, he said, “but sometimes they just get lax; It’s going to be our job to push this up on their priority list.”

As for selling the drug-laced bath salts and synthetic illegal drugs, police will continue to move on that but so will regulated industries.

It can take police months to make a criminal case, Majors said. “I can take action against your city license in 24 hours.”

Comments are closed.