TCSO Cracking Down on Tobacco Sales to Minors

It may look like an ordinary person walking into your tobacco store, but beware.

This transaction could cost you.

For the past three years, the Taylor County Sheriff's Office has received a grant to crack down on cigarette and tobacco sales to minors.

But for those past three years, the undercover operations have only applied to rural stores in Taylor County -- and citations have been few and far between.

"There have been like three or four, maybe," said Lt. John Cummins of the Taylor Co. Sheriff's Office.

This year, that's all changing and stores across Abilene are now fair game.

"It is an awareness kind of thing for the tobacco retailers in Taylor county to know that the next person that buys from them, if they're not real careful, could be a minor child with an officer present," Cummins explained.

Undercover sheriff's deputies, along with a teenager under 18, will try to catch stores selling to minors during the sting -- and if workers slip up, a costly citation will come their way.

"It goes through justice of the peace court and the fine is up to $200 on it," Cummins said.

"It's a big fine, TABC could also fine you, and  you could lose your job," said Charlie Gamel.

Gamel has been working at Smoker's Discount on S. 14th St. for about a month now.

In that time, he says he has seen a few underage teens try to buy, but the answer is always the same: "Sorry, we can't sell to you, you're not of age."

Walking into the store, you can see several signs saying they will not sell to minors -- and it's the same at other shops across town.

The operation is funded by a $9,150 grant from Texas State University.

The undercover stings will target any place licensed to sell tobacco products -- from gas stations and smoke shops to grocery stores.

If approved at the next Taylor Co. Commissioners meeting, the operation will run six months and begin on March 1st.

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