HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TRAINING FOR TOBACCO-COMPLIANCE CHECKS

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TRAINING FOR TOBACCO-COMPLIANCE CHECKS

Doña Ana County tobacco vendors beware: The next teenager who walks into your store to buy a tobacco product may be monitoring you for compliance with the law on tobacco sales.

New Mexico law prohibits tobacco sales to minors, and it requires vendors to ask for identification before making a sale. The South Central New Mexico Prevention Coalition is training more than two dozen students from three area high schools about the laws on tobacco sales.

Once trained, these students will spread out to visit vending locations throughout the county. The teens will attempt to purchase tobacco products over the counter. Vendors who fail to ask for identification or who make sales to underage buyers will be reported to the state.

SCNMPC Tobacco Prevention Specialist Angie Perez said the teens will be accompanied by adults who will monitor all transactions from a distance. Vendors who fail to comply with the law will receive mandatory merchant education on New Mexico law and the penalties for violations.

Perez said the compliance checks are independent from law enforcement.

"The idea behind these kinds of checks is to make the vendors aware that they're being monitored and to provide education to those who violate the law," she said. "We don't represent any police agency, and we don't issue citations. We do, however, share our results with our partner agencies, including law enforcement, so violators can reasonably expect to be tested by other agencies with citation capabilities."

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.