Oct. 22, 2009

Clerk cited in underaged tobacco sale

GENEVA – A gas station clerk was charged with selling tobacco to a person under age 18 as part of a compliance check of tobacco venders, police said.
Hina J. Patel, 38, of the 800 block of Bode Road, Elgin, was charged, Wednesday, Oct. 14, with making the sale at Geneva Shell, 1491 E. State St., police said. The compliance check occurred Oct. 7.
Police Cmdr. Julie Nash said the undercover compliance check was done at 12 establishments in the city that sell tobacco. Police rely on an underaged person whose ID shows he or she is underage to purchase tobacco. In Illinois, the legal age to buy tobacco is 18. 
All but the clerk at Geneva Shell refused to sell, Nash said.
"We do this for the very obvious reasons of the dangers of smoking," Nash said. "And it's our attempt to help those who don't always make the best decisions for themselves, to keep them safe. And to make sure businesses are only selling tobacco to those old enough to make the appropriate decisions. It's about looking out for the kids."
The undercover compliance checks are similar to those done at liquor establishments to see if an underaged person will be served or sold to. But what is different is, the charge goes to the person who sold, not to the owner of the establishment. In the case of a liquor violation, the seller can be charged as well as the person who holds the liquor license.
"We are only citing the person who sold he cigarettes," Nash said. "We have never actually cited businesses before. I don't know why that is, but it definitely should be looked into."
According to police reports, the teen working with police asked to buy a pack of Newport cigarettes. Patel asked to see identification, examined it and then sold the pack of Newports for $7.02, to the undercover teen, according to the report.
Patel told police she miscalculated the birthday on the identification, according to the police report. 
A spokesman for the gas station said Patel no longer works there. A message left for a manager was not returned Wednesday. Patel has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. She is to appear in court Nov. 17.