A bill is moving through the legislature that changes the fines leveled against retailers who sell tobacco to minors. Current law fines retailers the first time, and then suspends their license for 30 days on the second offense. City and County attorneys have complained it costs them money to prosecute the suspension cases, and they get nothing in return. A bill that’s cleared a House committee would hit retailers with a 15-hundred dollar fine and drop the suspension on the second offense. Representative Kevin McCarthy, a democrat from Des Moines, says they hope the change will spur more prosecution of the cases. He says they want local officials to prosecute the cases because it puts local attention on the cases and is more likely to get retailers to comply. He says the fine money would provide and incentive for the prosecutors to take up the cases. McCarthy says retailers could still lose their sales permit after a third violation. He says retailers will also be provided one “freebie” if they prove their clerks have undergone tobacco compliance training. He says it provides a strong incentive to get employees trained, and he says trained employees are less likely to sell tobacco to minors. Some of the fine money would be used for training clerks. The bill still has to pass the full House and Senate, which it is expected to do, as both retailers and anti-smoking activists support the bill.
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