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TEENS & TOBACCO | How new law would target those selling tobacco to minors

Posted at 4:04 PM, May 23, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY — House Bill 3331 is making its way through the Oklahoma legislature and would hold store owners accountable when their employees sell tobacco products to minors.

Current law fines only fines the employee who sold the product. There is also a law in place that holds the teen accountable through a required education course if caught buying or possessing tobacco.

A fine would be included if the teen did not complete the course.

The new bill would fine store owners $250 for a first offense and $1000 for subsequent offenses. They would also risk losing their license to sell tobacco products.

Minute Mart at 41st and Harvard in Tulsa is Jason Mahmood’s family-run business for 27 years.

He said preventing tobacco sales to minors is top of mind when training employees.

“If you’re unsure, ask for the ID, and if it is not present or available, decline the sale,” Mahmood told employees. “Play it safe, than sorry.”

Mahmood is conflicted about the possible legislation and admits it is likely an unpopular opinion that it is partly unfair.

“For example, if I drove my best friend’s car and I was speeding, I would get the ticket, not my best friend,” he explained.

However, as an Oklahoman, he is aware of the teen tobacco problem.

21% of Oklahoma teens reported vaping in the last month compared to 10% nationwide, according to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET.

WATCH more from TSET about the dangers of vaping:

TSET rolling out a new PSA

“If legislators think that is a way to prevent it, it could be a good thing,” Mahmood said.

Thomas Larson, Director of Public Affairs for TSET, said the bill was designed because sales to minors are inexcusable, especially when the state offers free training for store clerks that owners could require of them.

The training is done through

"Store owners are responsible for training their employees, so this is a way to hold them accountable for the employees’ actions and their stores," said Larson.

Mahmood said he already gets pushback from adults about showing identification.

“You don’t see my grey hair?” he said they would say to him.

Some stores require an ID check for tobacco, no matter the age. Mahmood said he would, too, if HB 3331 becomes law, and any persnickety customers would just have to understand.

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