Illinois Pursues Illegal Sales

Tobacco retailers would be licensed and held accountable for selling to minors under an ordinance expected to be approved by the Batavia City Council next week.

The council's Public Safety Committee on Monday approved an ordinance that would subject tobacco license-holders to a fine of up to $750 for selling to persons under the age of 18. Any business selling cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco or dipping tobacco would be required to obtain a license from the city, at a cost of $50 per year, according to the Kane Co. (Ill.) Chronicle.

The purpose of the ordinance is make sure that store owners and managers are held accountable for selling tobacco to minors.

"What we've being seeing in court is that the store clerk gets a fine, but nothing happens to the owner or manager of that business," said Batavia police Chief Dennis Anderson. "There was no accountability by the manager or owner, and we'd see a different clerk each time."

Under the proposed ordinance, the fine to be paid by the license holder would be on top of the fine paid by the clerk who actually sold the tobacco, the report said.

Armed with a grant from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, Batavia police have performed six compliance checks in the last two years, to ensure that retailers are checking identification and not selling tobacco to minors.

The first check in 1999 netted several clerk arrests, and resulted in a special seminar for those arrested on how to check identification. The education program and the checks, which involve police sending underage persons into businesses to attempt to buy tobacco, apparently are having an effect.

The most recent check, in May of this year, found all retailers to be in compliance for the first time, Anderson said.

The proposed ordinance would require all vending machines to be equipped with a manual or electronic locking device. Persons seeking to buy cigarettes from the machines can do so only when an employee of the business unlocks the machine at the purchaser's request.

"Generally, when police arrest a minor for possession of tobacco, the youth is given an ordinance violation ticket carrying a $25 fine, Anderson said. Subsequent arrests result in a notice to appear in court, and a fine of up to $500.
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