Police charge store's owner with selling cigarettes to youth


Acting on a mother's complaint, state police yesterday charged the owner of a Taylorsville convenience store with selling cigarettes to a 14-year-old boy.

The mother was the first to file such a complaint with state police or the state's attorney's office in Carroll County, said Cpl. Carol Warner, who set up a sting operation May 14.

Warner said the mother gave permission for her son to participate in the sting.

"We gave the boy money, and he entered Little George's [convenience store] at 4339 Ridge Road and bought a pack of Newport cigarettes without being asked to show proper identification," Warner said.

State law forbids the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 18 and requires merchants to request identification from anyone who appears to be age 26 or younger, Warner said.

"The merchant had the warning notices posted on the store counter," she said. "Those notices clearly warn customers that anyone 26, or younger, must be asked to show identification."

After the boy left the store, troopers escorted him inside to identify the salesperson.

The store owner, Brian S. Kim of the 13000 block of Turkey Branch Parkway in Rockville, was given a criminal summons, Warner said.

The penalty for a first offense is a $300 fine; a second offense within two years draws a $1,000 fine; and a third offense in the same two years by a $3,000 fine, she said..

The mother, who asked not to be named, said her sons and their friends have been able to find stores and gas stations that sell cigarettes to minors.

"The word spreads among the kids, and they know where they can buy them," she said.

Warner said troopers from the Westminster barracks will continue to charge those who sell tobacco products to minors.

Despite efforts to deter children and teen-agers from smoking, more are doing so nationwide.

Among the findings by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 48.2 percent of teen-age boys and more than 33 percent of girls smoke cigarettes or cigars or chew tobacco. Tobacco is considered a "gateway" drug, often leading to use of other drugs.

A 1996 survey in Carroll County showed 35 percent of its high school seniors and 36 percent of sophomores smoked.

tTC "Not all people who smoke are going to do drugs, but many people who do drugs start with cigarettes and tobacco," said Sandra Wearing, prevention coordinator at Junction Inc., a Carroll County organization that provides treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

People place tobacco and alcohol in a different category than other drugs, Wearing said.

"They consider tobacco and alcohol as not being bad, bad drugs because they are legal for adults," she said.

A recent study by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University concluded that 12- to 17-year-olds who smoke cigarettes are 12 times more likely to use heroin, 51 times more likely to use cocaine and 23 times more likely to use marijuana than nonsmokers.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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