MASCOT Members Urge Teen Tobacco Possession Law

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Jasper, Alabama
The Daily Mountain Eagle
Feb 24, 2001

Underage tobacco users beware. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) is increasing the enforcement of the penalty on people under the age of 19 who are caught using tobacco products.

"Minors in possession of tobacco, if we catch you in Walker County, we are going to write you a citation on the spot," ABC agent Jim Wehby said. He said there would be a $50 fine in addition to court costs for a total of around $350.

According to Lance Price of the ABC, the law has been on the books for a couple of years, but until now, it hasn't been strictly enforced. He also said the tickets issued will go through district court, not juvenile court.

Underage tobacco users aren't the only ones with a warning to heed. "Everybody that sells cigarettes needs a tobacco permit from the state," Wehby said. "If they don't have a tobacco permit, and a clerk sells a pack of cigarettes, the clerk can be arrested for selling tobacco without a permit."

State of Alabama

According to Wehby, the state began requiring the permits about two years ago because the ABC is regulating tobacco. "Everybody should have applied for a permit back then. All the people that have a liquor license have applied for their permit," he said. "A lot of people out in the dry part of the county that don't have a liquor license, still have to have a permit if they are selling tobacco."

Wehby said he has a list of all the locations permitted to sell tobacco and he updates the list when applications are made. "I will know of any other tobacco permits signed up for because they are going to have to go through me to get them," he said. According to Wehby, the permits are free and required in order to sell tobacco. He said permits that renew annually and automatically could be obtained at his office in Jasper across from the Alabama Thrift Store or the department of mental health.

"It's about a 10-minute process to fill one out and get it sent down," he said. "If you are still in business, they will send you a new permit (each year). You won't have to reapply like you would with alcohol." Wehby said repeat offenses could lead to the confiscation of the tobacco products in the store.

Agents who go in to do inspections will also be looking for illegal cigarettes, cigarettes untaxed out of the county. A citation will be written and the offense will be turned over to the tax assessor because it is a tax violation.

Wehby said the agency's No. 1 objective is still the sale of alcohol to minors and minors in possession of alcohol, but the possession and sale of tobacco ranks just below that.