Pennsylvania Store Owners Denounce Tobacco Proposal

A new proposal to combat youth smoking that would require convenience store retailers to buy a $500-a-year tobacco permit from Allegheny County was called "unacceptable" by retailers yesterday who vowed to fight it.

The rules, proposed last week by County Councilman Mike Crossey, (D- Mt. Lebanon), develop a set of penalties for stores and clerks who sell cigarettes to children, as well as for youths who make illegal purchases, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

But a provision in Crossey's proposal requiring stores to buy a tobacco permit -- and risk its loss for repeated sales to children -- is "absolutely, positively unacceptable," said Edward Szalankiewicz, director of operations for Pittsburgh-based Co-Go's Co.

The company, which operates 50 of its 60 convenience stores in Allegheny County, would have to spend about $25,000 on permits. "We are being buried in fees that never used to be there. ... Our industry will mount a major effort to fight this," Szalankiewicz said.

He called Crossey's proposal an "end run" around an earlier anti-smoking law, rejected 14-1 by county lawmakers in March.

Under Crossey's plan stores selling tobacco to minors would face a $300 fine for the first offense, a $450 fine for a second offense, a $600 fine and one-month loss of the tobacco permit for a third offense, and a $1,000 fine and six-month permit loss for a fourth offense.

Clerks involved in illegal sales would face a $100 fine for the first offense, $150 for a second offense, $200 for a third offense and $300 for a fourth offense. After the first offense, clerks would have to participate in a tobacco awareness program. After the third offense, they would face mandatory community service in a cancer-related health facility.

Children who buy cigarettes also face fines under Crossey's proposal: $50, first offense; $75, second offense; $100, third offense; and $150, fourth offense. They also would face mandatory tobacco awareness training and community service in a cancer-related facility. The bill will be voted on in June.
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