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Men in Black announce new objective

Grant will fund proactive approach to underage tobacco use epidemic


The Office of Pct. 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden recently received a Texas Statewide Tobacco Education and Prevention (Texas STEP) grant to combat underage smoking in East County by targeting retailers who illegally sell tobacco products to minors.  

The Texas STEP grant will fund overtime pay for officers who participate in the initiative, which includes educating retailers, compliance checks and the final “sting” step, when underage decoys will attempt to purchase tobacco products.  

Pct. 4 Cpl. Art Looza completed extensive training and will coordinate and share that information with other officers during the first phase of the program.  

Officers will contact area tobacco product retailers and ensure they have the necessary information to avoid breaking the law, and have properly instructed their employees.  

The next phase of the program will include compliance checks to see that the basic laws are observed, such as keeping tobacco products out of customers’ reach, having mandatory signs posted stating tobacco products will not be sold to anyone under 18 and that a valid photo ID is required for purchase.  

 The last phase will be “sting” operations in which under cover officers will observe minor decoys attempting to purchase tobacco products.  

Clerks who sell tobacco products to minors will receive a class C misdemeanor citation, but businesses will incur much larger costs in the form of fines and possible suspension of their permit to sell tobacco products.  

Up to 15 percent of Pct. 4 tobacco retailers will be targeted. The effort is not limited to convenience stores, but can also include grocery stores and any other retail establishment where tobacco products are sold.  

Constable Hayden said the initiative is not only to protect children from future health risks associated with smoking, but also from what studies show is often the first step in a series of self-destructive and illegal activities.  

For more information regarding underage tobacco use, visit the Texas STEP website at  

Pct. 4 Constable’s Office, a.k.a. “Men in Black”


Texas tobacco sales rules of compliance for merchants/employees

Merchants and their employees must comply with the Texas Tobacco Law (formerly Senate Bill 55) enacted September 1, 1997, failure to do so can and will result in hefty penalties for both the employee and/or the merchant. The new law sets forth the following provisions:  

  • Prohibits retailers and their employees from selling or providing tobacco products, or giving coupons for tobacco purchases to any person under 18 years of age.**
  • Prohibits distribution of free samples of tobacco products to any person under 18 years of age.**
  • Prohibits the sale of cigarettes in individual packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes and imposes a $100 fine for violation (Class A misdemeanor).
  • Requires retailers and their employees to request identification from all customers under the age of 27 who try to buy cigarettes or tobacco products.**
  • Allows retailers to be fined up to $1,000 per occurrence and/or have their permit revoked or suspended for selling tobacco products to any person under 27 years of age without valid identification.
  • Makes retailers responsible for the training and supervision of employees regarding the new tobacco laws.
  • Subjects employees to criminal prosecution for a Class C misdemeanor if they knowingly sell tobacco products to minors.
  • Requires retailers to notify employees of the consequences of violating the tobacco law within 72 hours of when the employee begins selling tobacco products. Retailers must also retain a form signed by the employee as proof that the notice was given. In addition to the employee’s name, current address, social security number, and signature date, the form must include a statement that the law has been fully explained, that the individual understands the law, and that the individual agrees to comply with the law.**
  • Requires retailers to retain the signed “employee notification” form for 60 days after the individual leaves employment. Retailers must present the forms to law enforcement officers and/or state officials on demand.**
  • Requires retailers to conspicuously display a sign warning employees and customers about the tobacco law and the penalties for violations of the law. The warning sign must be approved or supplied by the Comptroller; however, signs approved or supplied by the Texas Department of Health satisfy this requirement through December 31, 1997.**
  • Subjects retailers to random inspection by local law enforcement and state officials to ensure compliance with the tobacco law.
  • Prohibits the placement of tobacco vending machines in any business that is accessible to minors.**
  • Prohibits retailers or anyone else from selling cigarettes or tobacco products in a manner that allows customers direct access to the cigarettes or tobacco products.
  • Prohibits the advertisement of cigarettes or tobacco products within 1,000 feet of a school or church.

**Violation is a Class C misdemeanor and retailers are subject to suspension or revocation of their cigarette or tobacco products permit and a fine of up to $1,000.  





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