(OWASSO, Okla.) July 18 - The fast growing city of Owasso is trying to stay ahead of a fast growing problem.
A new ordinance gives the city More power to punish businesses that sell tobacco products to minors. The ordinance is basically patterned after state law, but would give them More local control. It goes into effect in September.
Stores make it very clear that only people 18 and over can buy Cigarettes. But soon stores in Owasso will have More incentive to make sure Cigarettes don't get into the hands of kids under 18.
Owasso's skate park is a place where 16-year-old Devin Levan and his friends can have fun, and stay out of trouble.
“It's something to do,” said Devin.
Devin says he's heard it's easy for some kids his age to get Cigarettes. Now some parents hope a new ordinance stiffening penalties for businesses that sell Cigarettes to minors like Devin will keep that from happening.
The idea behind the ordinance is just to keep sending the message that it's the law and if you break the law you'll pay the consequences.
That's why Naomi Reed, who works at an Owasso convenience store, says when she's behind the counter she's always watching.
“They look quite young,” said Reed. “And when you ask them for their ID they're all uh... about it. Or they say they don't have it.”
Naomi thinks anything she and the city can do to keep kids from getting Cigarettes is a good idea.
“I watch out because I have two little brothers and I don't want them to get it,” Reed said. “I think it's a great idea because the state can't get around to everybody all the time.”
Owasso's not the only place cracking down on teen smoking. Broken Arrow also passed a similar ordinance that is now in effect.
In Owasso, a business that violates the ordinance can be fined up to $100 for its first offense. The second time within a two-year period could result in a fine of up to $200. If a business violates the ordinance a third time, it's a $300 fine and a possible 30-day suspension of the store's tobacco license.