Montgomery County plans more cigarette-sale stings
Sending youths into convenience stores to see if clerks sell them cigarettes is nothing new for public health officials and law enforcement. For years, these sting operations, which result in fines for offending stores, have been part of the war on teen s
With an infusion of money from Pennsylvania's share of the national settlement with the tobacco industry, however, these operations are about to become a lot more common in Montgomery County.
County commissioners announced Thursday that the county will receive $5.2 million from the settlement over the next four years for what is known as ''tobacco use prevention and cessation'' programs.
It is part of a larger pool of money for various programs counties throughout the state are getting through the settlement.
In addition to stepping up sting operations, acting Health Director Joseph Roynan said, the $5.2 million will also be used to fund anti-smoking programs at schools for kindergartners through 12th-graders.
The Health Department has occasionally checked up on stores that have a reputation for selling to youths or have been cited for illegal cigarette sales in the past, Roynan said. But with the settlement money, the department â€” with the help of police departments throughout the county â€” will put every one of the county's 1,200 cigarette sellers to the test three times a year.
''The Montgomery County Police Chiefs Association has agreed to participate,'' he said. ''There's money to provide'' for police overtime, he said, so ''it won't have to come out of their budgets.''
Roynan said stores are subject to escalating fines and even being shut down if they continue selling cigarettes to people under the age of 18.
All of the county's cigarette vendors will soon be warned about the program in a letter, he said.