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Tobacco Ordinance Stiffened

Store owners in Batavia now face stiff fines if they are caught selling tobacco products to underage smokers.

The Batavia City Council this week unanimously approved a new ordinance that fines store owners up to $750 for selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 18, Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle reported.

"It makes owners and managers more accountable for their employees," said Batavia Police Chief Dennis Anderson, who heads the city's effort to eradicate underage smoking.

The ordinance also empowers Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke to suspend or revoke an establishment's license for violating the ordinance. Under the city's previous ordinance, only store clerks faced fines if they were caught selling tobacco products to underage smokers, the report said.

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

The new ordinance also requires that businesses selling cigarettes and other tobacco products obtain a license from the city. The cost for the annual license is $50.

In addition, businesses operating cigarette vending machines are forced to pay an additional $10 fee. Vending machines must be locked manually or electronically to prevent minors from using them.

Those people wanting to buy cigarettes from a vending machine would have to get an employee at the business to unlock the machine. Vendors also need to post signs saying "The sale of tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age is prohibited by law."

Although Anderson admitted the stiffer ordinance would not totally stop underage smoking, he hopes the new rules will put a dent in the problem. "This makes it that much more difficult to get tobacco products," he said.

Anderson said he is hoping fines will not have to be given. During a check of 18 stores in May, he said none of them were found to be selling tobacco products to underage smokers.
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