Saturday, September 09, 2000

New law targets teen-age smokers

In these towns, they can't hold 'em or smoke 'em

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEER PARK — Under-18 teens here had better rethink asking their older friends to buy them smokes.

        The city has passed an ordinance making smoking, and possession of or buying tobacco products misdemeanors.

        “The state law stipulates that children under 18 can't purchase cigarettes, but it doesn't say they can't smoke them,” said Councilwoman Sandra Hall, who introduced the ordinance. “We wanted to get the law passed before school started to help the schools get rid of after-school crowds.”

        Groups of teens have traditionally gathered at a nearby shopping center, and many of them smoke.

        Under the law, children under 18 who are caught smoking, in possession of or buying cigarettes or tobacco products can be cited to the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Ms. Hall said.

        Locally, Blue Ash has a similar ordinance. Sylvania, Medina and Eastlake in northern Ohio also have no-smoking laws for teens.

        There have been no citations issued in Deer Park yet; but in Blue Ash, Police Sgt. Robert Lilley estimated 25 to 30 kids each year are caught violating the law there.

        “We have had the law since 1997 and it is working out very well,” Sgt. Lilley said. “We have received good feedback from parents.”

        Ms. Hall brought together members of a community-care team with coaches, school principals, police and fire personnel to draft Deer Park's ordinance.

        “Parents have authority over their children, but sometimes they need something to back them up,” she said.

        The law has had its desired effect on after-school gatherings, said Gary Brooks, principal of Deer Park Junior-Senior High School.

        “It has been very positive and there hasn't been much objection,” he said. “We explained to the children that this was not a school policy, but a law.”

        Mr. Brooks said students are not gathering at the shopping center as much as they had.

        “The children are apparently going home,” he said.

        The ordinance covers any tobacco product, including cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff.

        A first offense is a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $100. A second offense within a year is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree (up to 30 days in jail and up to a $250 fine). Each subsequent offense within a year is a misdemeanor of the third degree (up to 60 days and $500).

        In Blue Ash, offenders often are cited to Referee's Court.

        “The parents usually come with them,” Sgt. Lilley said. “Most of the time the punishment is work details. Oftentime, the smoking is in connection with some other offense. Officers can use their own judgment if they see a kid with a cigarette or smoking one.”


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