City tobacco ordinance gets approval on first read

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The city of Craig is one step closer to enacting a permanent ban on the public use of tobacco by minors after Tuesday night's unanimous vote on an ordinance that would continue a two-year-old prohibition.

The ordinance passed unanimously on its first reading, making it likely it will pass on its second and final reading scheduled for July 8.

A coalition of Craig residents proposed the ban two years ago with two goals: Eliminating the visible use of tobacco by teens and correcting the hypocrisy of a law that prohibited the sale of tobacco products to teens but not the possession of tobacco.

The original ordinance expires Aug. 14.

Members of the citizen coalition said they feel the ordinance has

been successful.

"I think for the most part it's been effective," said Kent Nielson, city council member and director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a substance abuse prevention organization.

"I think we can call it a success," Mayor Dave DeRose said. "You don't see kids hanging around Kum and Go and the schools smoking anymore."

Clyde Hettinger, owner of Dark Horse Liquors in Craig, said he agreed the ban should be permanent and suggested the penalties for violating it should be harsher.

"It's a ridiculous position to put retailers in," he said. "My personal opinion would be to increase the penalty sufficiently."

Hettinger said he faces up to a $10,000 fine if caught selling tobacco products to a minor.

Offenders are fined up to $30 and sentenced to a one-hour class on the use and effects of tobacco for a first violation. The fine increases to up to $50 for repeat offenders, class time is bumped to three hours and the offender could be sentenced to complete up to 24 hours of public service.

The ordinance that would make the prohibition permanent keeps the same penalties as the original law.

According to the Craig Police Department, 27 citations for underage possession of tobacco have been issued in the past two years.

Cases of repeat offenders are rare and three teens are known to have stopped using tobacco products following the court-mandated class.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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