PRINCETON: Health Department sting operation reveals perfect compliance with local tobacco ordinance

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A sting operation by the Princeton Health Department last week found that local merchants are not selling tobacco products to underage purchasers, a sign that they are complying with a municipal law that forbids the sale of such products to anyone under 21.
A high school student interning with the department over the summer went to 16 stores that sell tobacco products and/or e-cigarettes to see if he could buy them, officials said Wednesday. In each case, he was turned down or asked to show identification, health officer Jeffrey D. Grosser said Wednesday.
Councilwoman Heather H. Howard said Wednesday that the student’s parents signed a permission form allowing their son to participate, and that he was trained ahead of time on what to do. In this case, Mr. Grosser said the student is under the age of 19.
The local ordinance calls for monetary penalties that start at $250 for a first-time offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third.
This week, officials touted the 100 percent compliance rate. Mr. Grosser credited the outreach that inspectors in his department did to educate merchants about an ordinance the Board of Health adopted April 21. Tobacco products and e-cigarettes cannot be sold in Princeton to anyone under 21, the measure says.
Mr. Grosser also credited stores for training their employees about what the ordinance states.
Princeton passed a higher age restriction than what New Jersey allows. In the state, purchasers have to be at least 19.
In explaining the rationale for the stricter measure, officials earlier this year pointed to research that says smoking is a habit that most people start when they are young. For example, a 2012 report by the Surgeon General said nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 18, according to the American Cancer Society.
Such undercover operations as last week’s are commonplace around the state in which an underage purchaser is sent in to see if stores will sell tobacco products