Tobacco sales to undercover teens lead to criminal charges for 8

Signs warning against the sale of tobacco to minors are displayed in the window of a Lawrence store, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

A batch of area residents who allegedly sold cigarettes to teens working undercover are facing criminal charges for doing so.

Seven Lawrence residents and one Lecompton resident recently appeared in Douglas County District Court, where they were charged with one count each of selling, furnishing or distributing cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products to people under the age of 18, according to court records.

The charges stem from what the Kansas Department of Revenue calls “routine cigarette tobacco enforcement,” said Anna Landis, an attorney with KDOR’s legal services.

KDOR has the power to conduct inspections on retailers that hold cigarette licenses, and “part of that is ensuring that sales to minors do not occur,” Landis said.

KDOR sends underage youths — usually about 16 to 17 and a half years old — into businesses to buy cigarettes, Landis said.

If they succeed, KDOR files reports that can lead to criminal charges against the clerks, Landis said. She said KDOR also issues civil citations against businesses holding the cigarette licenses.

Landis declined to say when the recent Lawrence sweeps occurred or how often KDOR conducts its enforcements.

However, charging documents allege some defendants made the sales in April, and others in June. The documents did not include the names of the retail stores where the sales occurred.

The defendants were charged in late July and ordered to appear in court in September, according to court records.

The minimum punishment for being convicted of selling tobacco to a minor, a misdemeanor, is a fine of $200, according to Jill Spurling, trial assistant for the DA’s office. She said the maximum penalty allowed under law is a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.