October 10 2018

Two Businesses Given Tobacco Sale Suspensions After Compliance Check Failure

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Health cited two businesses for selling tobacco products to underage buyers and gave one of them the longest suspension available due to the number of times they had failed compliance checks.

First up was Burlington Citgo at 161 Bedford Street that failed a compliance check on September 26 when an employee sold a JUUL pen to an underage person working for the Board of Health. This was the second violation in a 36-month period, the time frame used by the board for subsequent offenses.

“Somebody under the age of 21 went in and attempted to purchase a JUUL and was able to purchase it because nobody asked for identification,” Burlington Health Agent Marlene Johnson said.

Board Chairman Wayne Saltsman expressed his dissaproval for the lapse.

“You know how we feel about this,” he said to the business owner. “So aside from the penalty you’ll be getting what are you going to do to ensure that Burlington Citgo will not be before us again.”

The owner said he had installed ID scanners on all the registers so whenever someone attempts to purchase a tobacco product their license or other certified identification must be scanned for the purchase to continue.

Still, the board followed the regulations and voted to impose a seven-day suspension of tobacco sales for the business that will run from Monday, October 15 until the end of business on Sunday, October 21.

“We have no choice,” Board Vice-Chair Ed Weiner said. “You’ve seen the ordinance and the policy. We find no pleasure in doing this, especially to a small business, but this is the second time.”

The second business before the board was Town Pantry at 85 Wilmington Road. It too had failed a compliance check on September 26 by selling a tobacco product to an underaged buyer. This was the third violation in the last 36 months with prior compliance check failures occurring in June of this year and in May of 2016.

Saltsman noted that the June violation was the last compliance check the board had undertaken and said he was disappointed to see the business back for another hearing.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “You’re in my neighborhood and it hurts me to imagine that you are not advocating for our kids like we are. You were just here.”

Johnson said the regulation for a third violation is a 30-day suspension of tobacco sales and the board voted to impose a suspension that will run from Monday, October 15 to the end of business on Tuesday, November 13.

“Again, you’re a small business man and it hurts me to have to do this but clearly this continues to happen and we’re trying to protect the community,” Weiner said. “Unfortunately this has happened again.”

The business owner, who said roughly 60-percent of his business is tobacco sales, asked for a two-week suspension instead. That request was denied.

“The regulation is for 30 days, these are the rules, this is how we advocate for the town,” Saltsman said. “We hope a 30-day freeze on your sales will help you enforce things moving forward.”

The owner said he too had updated his cash registers and that all tobacco sales will be checked. He also said the employee who sold the product to the underage buyer had been fired.

Finally, Johnson warned that a fourth violation could bring either another 30-day suspension or prompt a revocation hearing of the business’s right to sell tobacco at all.  

“We’d hate to have to talk to you about revocation,” Saltsman said.


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