NEWTOWN — State and local law enforcement officials teamed up recently to check whether local retailers were selling tobacco and electronic cigarettes to minors.
While the majority of the nearly 20 retailers who received undercover inspections during the past week, five of the stores failed to check for identification before selling products to the minor working with the operation.
Those that failed their inspections were Bottle Stop Wine & Spirits on Queen Street, Dodgington Market on Dodgingtown Road, the Gulf station on Sugar Street, Fairgrounds Wine and Spirits on Main Street and Walgreens on Main Street. Penalties include a $200 fine for the first two violations.
The owner of the Dodgington Market, George Hamilakis said he has some concerns, however, about how the sting operation was conducted.
“The girl who came into the shop had her face covered with piercings and tattoos and bought a cigar,” he said. “We know the law and we abide by it, but we thought the girl was over 18 because of the tattoos. In Connecticut you need to be 18 in order to get them.”
The agent who worked with the operation, who can’t be identified by name due his undercover work, said the minors they work with typically remove any piercings and cover up tattoos.
He added, however, that state law requires retailers to ask for identification for anyone who appears under the age of 27 and that minors can get tattoos in the state with parental permission.
“We understand that its often not intentional, and its just often easier for the retailers to say yes instead of no,” the agent said. “But its about creating good habits so that people are accustomed to asking for identification and customers come to expect it.”
Carol Meredith, the director of prevention and health promotion for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said vaping materials and electronic cigarettes pose a particular concern for the state’s youth.
“These materials can often be attractive to kids who have otherwise been turned off to more traditional tobacco products,” she said. “As an agency we are paying close attention and trying to do more inspections with local police to help address the issue.”