Clampdown on Illegal Cigarette Sales

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A customer is buying a pack of cigarette at a liquor store in Koreatown next to a sign that prohibits sales to underage smokers.

Since the minimum legal age to purchase Cigarettes in California became 21 last June, the clampdown on illegal sales has only been getting stronger. The investigators are now setting up “traps” to identify all illegal sales.

Many businesses are still prone to selling cigarettes without checking the ID of their customers. All businesses are required by law to check the customers’ ID cards.

“Three people recently came in and asked for cigarettes,” said a liquor store owner in Koreatown, only identified by his last name Kim. “It was hard to tell how old they were, so I asked them for their ages instead of checking their IDs. I realized later that they were detectives. One of them was monitoring the sales process, while the other one was videotaping the whole incident.”

Kim later ended up with a $1,000 fine and a 30-day suspension of his business. Another Korean business owner in South Bay was also recently caught for the same reason and is awaiting the penalty.

“When a customer asks for cigarettes, businesses are required to ask for his or her ID,” said an employee at the California Department of Public Health.

Jung-chil Kim, a chairman at the Korean Groceries and Licensed Beverage Association, said: “Business owners may believe that it’s a hassle to ask for IDs, but the fine could be as high as $6,000 and it could also result in suspension of the sales license.”

 

By Hyoungjae Kim