SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District began formally performing Tobacco 21 compliance inspections this week after the new ordinance went into effect Monday.
The ordinance prevents anyone under 21 from buying tobacco products.
KSAT was there to witness the first inspection at the Stripes store on Bandera and Eckert roads.
Lori Calzoncit, sanitarian services manager, said the city has been working hard to educate the more than 1,100 businesses that sell some form of tobacco or e-cigarettes since the spring in preparation for this week. The city handed out folders with information, flyers in English and Spanish, stickers and employee notification forms.
“We're spending these first three months to spread the word to educate and make sure our stores are in compliance,” Calzoncit said about the next part of the year.
Thirty-six sanitarians will be in charge of doing the inspections. They are also responsible for doing the food inspections for convenience stores that sell food, as well as tobacco products. The inspections will take place on the same day.
“For a tobacco retailer that does not have a food license, they would get an annual inspection and then they would go into our system to be eligible for a random decoy visit,” Calzoncit said.
Stickers are visible at every register, and signage must be displayed at the door. For places where cigarette vending machines are situated, people under 21 years old are not allowed to work or enter those facilities.
Tobacco cannot be sold to a person under 21, but a person under 21 can sell tobacco at their place of employment.
Nichole Broomfield, who is a clerk at Stripes, said she has already had to turn away some young customers who tried to make a purchase.
“Once you get the ID, scan them. If it’s expired or they are under age, I refuse to sell them. They might be mad, but that's OK. Come back and see us again,” she said.
The Stripes store passed the inspection.
Customer Roger Rodriguez thinks what the city is doing is a great idea, but he knows it will take some time to get used to the change.
“Let them get used to it, and if they continue to do it, give them a ticket. It’s like everything else. People have to get used to this,” he said.
Penalties for violations go into effect Jan. 1. Fines for violations are up to $500.
SA Metro Health has resources available for parents with minors who need help with nicotine addiction. Complaints about sales to minors can be made by calling 311.
San Antonio is the first city in the state to enforce Tobacco 21. State lawmakers may consider a statewide law in the next legislative session.