Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Crackdown on young smokers

New Ohio law bars minors from buying, possessing tobacco

The Associated Press

        FINDLAY, Ohio — Teachers and police officers this week will start cracking down on young people smoking and chewing tobacco.

        A state law that takes effect Thursday makes it illegal for anyone under 18 to buy, possess or use cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff or rolling papers.

        Teen-agers who are spotted using tobacco could face a $100 fine, community service, smoking-education classes and loss of driving privileges.

        Findlay High School Principal Kathleen Crates said school officials will keep a close watch on “smoker's corner” — an area just off school property where students congregate to smoke.

        Students caught smoking during their lunch period will no longer be allowed to leave school during lunch, and the discipline will get tougher for repeat offenders, she said.

        Port Clinton Police Chief Walter Bahnsen said officers will use discretion in enforcing the law.

        “We are not going to start patting people down looking for cigarettes,” he said. “But before, you could see a 12-year-old kid walking down the street smoking and there was nothing you could do. Well, now you can.

        “For some, the possibility of having an encounter with the law could make them not start, or not smoke as much and never get addicted.”

        Marblehead Police Chief Wood Holbrook said his officers will enforce the law when they see a problem.

        “Once stopped, it will be up to the officer's discretion if they want to issue a warning or charge the person,” Chief Holbrook said.

        Sen. Larry Mumper said he sponsored the measure because current state law prohibits store owners from selling tobacco to minors, yet it isn't illegal for children to buy or possess it.

        “I thought it was only fair that we prohibit minors from smoking and using tobacco,” said Mr. Mumper, R-Marion. “We are not making criminals out of young folks.”

        Aaron Rosco, 19, said he thinks the new law will prompt kids to smoke cigarettes discreetly, using public bathrooms and people's homes, the same way they drink alcohol.

        “People ask me all the time if I will buy them a pack of smokes,” Mr. Rosco said. “I don't like to do it, but for some of my friends and people I work with, I will.”


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