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DA says tobacco awareness program not meant to punish

| Thursday, April 11, 2002

KITTANNING - Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said Armstrong County retail stores that sell tobacco products are doing a good job of keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors.

Starting today, his office will act to see that retailers keep up the good work.

Andreassi said his office has received a grant from the state Department of Health to fund the Tobacco Awareness and Prevention Project (TAPP). The primary purpose of TAPP is to raise awareness on the part of retailers and consumers as to what the law is regarding the sale of tobacco to minors.

"It is not our intention to punish retailers, but to educate them," Andreassi said.

Under TAPP, each retailer licensed to sell tobacco products will be visited on a random basis.

Andreassi said the visitation program will involve area high school students, who, with parental permission, will enter stores and attempt to buy tobacco products.

"The students are part of the Tobacco Prevention Group," Andreassi said. "They will enter a store accompanied by one or more police officers and attempt to purchase tobacco.

"If the retailer refuses to sell tobacco products to an underage customer they will be advised that the attempted buy was part of TAPP and the retailer will be commended. If the 'customer' is sold a tobacco product, the retailer will then be advised they are in violation of the law. It is not our intention at this time to punish retailers that sell tobacco products to minors, but to make them aware of the implications of the law."

Andreassi said store owners will be later visited by his office either commending them or notifying them of the violation.

"We are confident that Armstrong County retailers are doing a good job in this matter," Andreassi said. "we are anxious to show the folks at the state level that we're all working together to do our job, and that is to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors."

Andreassi said he is concerned about tobacco use by minors because the medical evidence is clear as to the dangers of tobacco use.

"Evidence has shown that the younger people start to smoke, the longer they smoke and the more difficult it is to break the habit," Andreassi said.

Andreassi will speak on tobacco use at a "Tobacco Bust Rally" to be held at noon Friday on the steps of the Armstrong County Courthouse. The rally, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Coleman, will be attended by area middle and high school students.

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