MASCOT Members Urge Teen Tobacco Possession Law

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Legislation passed, March 15th. See story

Tim Botos, Repository West Bureau
The Repository
March 12, 2001

Shaun Williams isn't allowed to buy cigarettes - heŐs only 16 years old. Still, he said he can lay his hands on a pack of smokes if he wants one. Sometimes, an older friend buys them for him. Or, heŐll even buy them himself. "There's places that'll sell 'em," he says.

Williams was smoking a cigarette one afternoon last week, while walking with four friends on Massillon's near west side. He said he has smoked for six years and won't quit - even when a state law banning underage smoking goes into effect Thursday. Williams doesn't plan to get caught. He holds the butt of the cigarette between his forefinger and thumb. He lowers his hand, twists it sideways and shoves the burning end of the cigarette under his coat sleeve. "That's what you do when a cop goes by," he says.

Ohio IDs

Repository / Michael S. Balash
I.D. PLEASE. Nidal Khalil of the E Z Quick Shop in Canton cards youthful-looking people to prevent the sale of tobacco products.

It's already illegal to sell cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff to anyone younger than 18. However, it's not illegal for minors to buy or use tobacco. "Right now, the clerks in the stores can get busted," said Joe Case, a spokesman for the Ohio attorney general's office. Problem was, there wasn't much police could do to the minors who bought tobacco. But beginning Thursday, police will be able to charge them with a crime. Minors will face a $100 fine.

Jackson Township police Patrol Officer Tom Wyatt, a D.A.R.E. officer, said he's glad the state law is tightening. The D.A.R.E. program preaches the ill effects of drugs, alcohol and tobacco to children. "When you get 10-, 12- and 13-year-olds out there smoking, it's just bad news," he said.

Four out of every five adult smokers first lit up when they were children, according to information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. In cities such as Canton and Alliance, the new law isn't a big deal. Their City Councils already have similar laws on the books. And they use them.

Alliance Police detective Gregory Anderson, who handles juvenile cases, said they've charged more than a dozen teens for smoking this year. "There are three big times," he said. "Before school, at lunch, then when school lets out. It seems like other than that, theyŐre not blatant about it." Anderson said he recently charged a 14-year-old boy for smoking. Turns out, it was the first pack he ever had bought, and he had smoked only two cigarettes. He has since said he quit."Maybe we saved one," Anderson said. He said he believes smoking leads to harder drugs.

Police in Ohio always have had the option to charge minors under an obscure delinquency code. It basically says it's illegal for a child to do something that could harm his health. But police said rarely, if ever, was that tool used. That's one reason why State Sen. Larry Mumper, whose district is in north central Ohio, introduced the underage smoking law in December 1999. He told a Senate committee he had received letters from students, educators and police, supporting it.

"Younger students complain that high- school-age students smoke freely, adjacent to elementary school grounds," he told the committee. "When students and teachers ask the D.A.R.E. officers to intervene, they are told there is nothing they can do."

According to the law, introduced as Senate Bill 218, the parents of a minor who is cited are notified immediately. And they must appear with the child to pay the $100 fine. If they contest the charge, and lose, the penalty can get tougher. A judge can still order the $100 fine. However, the judge also can add 20 hours of community service, order the minor to attend smoking education classes, and even suspend his driverŐs license for as many as 30 days.

You can reach Repository writer Tim Botos at (330) 830-1799 or e-mail:

Starting Thursday, the state of Ohio will forbid minors to buy, possess or use any tobacco products. NewsChannel5's Ted Hart reports that smoking could be hazardous to more than just a youngster's health.

David, 16, recalls the first time that he puffed a cigarette. It was six years ago. "It's hard out here sometimes," he said. "Sometimes, you need that to deal with it. (The cigarettes) help you relax, tune out and everything..."

Supporters of the new law hope that the threat of losing a license will burn the desire to take a drag, WEWS reports.

Source: NewsNet5 (WEWS) (Mar 16, 2001)
by Ted Hart

Kim Marshall took a defiant drag on her cigarette yesterday and blew the smoke into the cool afternoon air. "They can't tell us what to do," the 16-year-old Woodward High School student said as she sat on a park bench across the street from the school. "And if they do, we'll do it anyway."

Beginning yesterday, Miss Marshall and other juveniles who light up are doing so in violation of a new state law that prohibits them from purchasing, consuming, or possessing tobacco or tobacco products.

The penalty can be a $100 fine, community service, smoking education programs, and even a suspension of their driver’s license.

Source: Toledo (OH) Blade (Mar 16, 2001)