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DAVIS STINGS WON’T EXPAND TO ALCOHOL YET

SHARE DAVIS STINGS WON’T EXPAND TO ALCOHOL YET

Teenage undercover agents continue to make illicit tobacco purchases in Davis County. However, the health department, which helps run the sting operation, isn't sure it wants to expand into alcohol control.

Health educator Kevin Condra, who coordinates the tobacco education and sting operation with local police departments, said this week the county is operating in compliance with a new law governing the practice that takes effect July 1.The law requires undercover purchasers to be directly supervised by a police officer and that the seller be issued a citation when the buy is successful.

The health department previously ran its sting operation independently, reporting the results of successful buys - which violate a state law banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger than 18 - to local police agencies and the store owners.

The Legislature, in SB53, put an end to the independent operations, which retailers and tobacco lobbyists claim was nothing more than harassment.

Condra said most cities in the county, especially the smaller ones, are asking for help from his department and its group of trained high school buyers.

Only Bountiful, which says it has its own enforcement program, has declined to cooperate, according to health department officials.

But Condra said he's now getting requests for the agents to participate in alcohol-purchase attempts. That is a whole different problem, he said.

His office began the sting operations as part of its overall tobacco education project and because of concern about the ease with which teens could illegally obtain cigarettes and other tobacco products, Condra said.

If he became involved in the alcohol operation, Condra said, he would want it to be as part of a larger education program similar to the tobacco one. But he's not prepared to start one and there isn't funding for it, he said.

Traditionally, he said, alcohol education and counseling have been the province of the county's mental-health agency, not the health department.

There could also be liability and legal problems, Condra said, with the agents called on to testify in court or licensing hearings on alcohol violations.