Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Funding cuts won’t
snuff teen-police
tobacco stings

By Helen Altonn


Enforcement of the state law banning tobacco sales to minors will continue with teen volunteers and police although federal funding of $306,405 has been pulled, state officials say.

The Food and Drug Administration last month ordered all states to stop federally funded programs to prohibit cigarette sales to minors after the Supreme Court said the FDA wasn't authorized to regulate tobacco products.

Deputy Health Director Virginia Pressler said the enforcement program will continue through June with $75,000 to $85,000 from the state's tobacco settlement fund.

About $250,000 to $300,000 also will be drawn from the tobacco fund to support the program next year, Pressler said.

"We want everyone to know those activities are not going to stop. They will carry on without any interruption."

Hawaii could lose up to $2.7 million in federal funding for alcohol and drug treatment if tobacco sales to teens are higher than 20 percent in random, unannounced samples of stores conducted yearly, Elaine Wilson, chief of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, pointed out.

Last year, the sales rate was about 11 percent -- a drop from 44 percent in 1996.

"We have to prove we, as a state, are enforcing state laws against sales," Wilson said. But that is an unfunded mandate, she said.

The program must involve police because they're the only ones who can enforce state law, she said.

About 400 undercover police inspections have been done yearly with teen volunteers since 1995, plus about 1,500 annual inspections of retail outlets to enforce the federal law, she said.

The FDA funds were to enforce the federal law prohibiting sales of cigarettes to minors but "the state law is much better than the federal law," Wilson said.

"The wonderful thing about the state law -- you get cited immediately. There is a mandatory $500 fine against the clerk. We have to stop it at the point of purchase at the cash register."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin