Thursday, March 23, 2000

Tobacco carding likely to continue

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Grocery and convenience stores no longer have to card cigarette buyers who look younger than 27, but that doesn't mean they will stop.

        Retailers on Wednesday were just learning about Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling that said the Federal Food and Drug Administration doesn't have the power to regulate tobacco.

  All 50 states have laws regulating the sale of tobacco products to minors. Here are Tristate rules:
  • Ohio: Manufacturers, producers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers may not sell tobacco products to anyone under age 18.
  There is no law punishing minors for possessing or purchasing tobacco products, although a bill to that effect is making its way through the state legislature.
  • Kentucky and Indiana: Ban the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 and prohibit people under 18 from buying tobacco.
        The ruling scraps federal penalties on retailers that sell tobacco to people under 18. It also removes a requirement that retailers check photo IDs of any buyer who looks younger than 27.

        But underage smokers shouldn't flock to the neighborhood grocer thinking they'll easily get cigarettes. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky still have laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to people under age 18.

        And legal smokers shouldn't assume they'll no longer get carded. Several local retailers said they probably would continue asking for ID if they have questions about a buyer's age.

        “We're penalized if we sell tobacco to underage (people), and the only way for us to double-check it is to see IDs,” said Brian Cleavinger, a store manager at Meijer Inc.'s Eastgate store.

        Tuesday's ruling crushed the cornerstone of President Clinton's campaign to stop teen-age smoking.

        Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the court, acknowledged that tobacco use “poses perhaps the single most significant threat to public health in the United States.” But she said Congress must pass specific legislation granting the FDA power to regulate tobacco products.

        Several retailers contacted Wednesday hadn't heard about the ruling and weren't sure how their companies would now handle seeking ID from folks in their 20s.

        But they said they didn't think carding would stop.

        “Thornton's policy is to card anyone under 30,” said Angela Boyers, manager of the Thornton Oil Corp. convenience store in West Chester Township. “They're going to make us continue to card because they're going to protect their interests.”

        Jim Yantos, store manager of Biggs in Forest Fair Mall, said: “I would think we would not change our approach on that unless we were forced to. We pretty much card everybody even if they look older. We're real cautious in that area.”

        Steve Jagers, a spokesman for Kroger stores in the Cincinnati and Dayton area, said no decision had been made on how to handle carding in the future.

        But, he added, “It's very important for us as a retailer to make sure we do not sell cigarettes and tobacco products to minors.”

        Some smokers said they didn't think carding should stop, even if it can be an inconvenience.

        “Too many kids are smoking. It's a bad habit,” said Charles Pawlaczyk, 48, of Hamilton as he bought a pack of Winstons at Thornton's. “It's too expensive, too.”

        Jeff Bradley of Milford, however, said he thinks carding adults is unnecessary.

        “If they look like a kid, the law's the law,” the 29-year-old said. “But if they look old enough, to me, it's a waste of time.”

        Ms. Boyers, who has smoked since age 8, said she was happy to hear the federal government for now can no longer regulate tobacco sales.

        “As a Thornton's employee I'm going to do as I'm told, but as a smoker, I think it's our constitutional right to kill ourselves any way we want to,” she said. “I think to 18 years old they should restrict it, but I think they should stay out of it other than that.”


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