Tennessee cracks down on the sale of single cigarettes‏

Nick Rees Sep. 25, 2009, 5:45pm

Bob Cooper (D)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - The sale of single cigarettes sold separately from a pack, called "loosies," in Tennessee is being combated by several Tennessee agencies.

"We think it is important that tobacco retailers understand that selling single cigarettes is against the law," Attorney General Bob Cooper said. "And, we will prosecute those who ignore the law by continuing to sell single cigarettes after we've warned them not to do so."

Loosies, which can be purchased for about 25 cents opposed to more than five dollars for a full pack, pose a health threat to young people according to an alert to the public and businesses as the single cigarettes are easier and cheaper for young people to purchase.

Twenty-three tobacco retailers alleged to have sold the loose cigarettes were recently sent letters from the attorney general's office. The letters advised the businesses to end the illegal sale of the cigarettes.

Potential penalties of up to $1,000 are allowed per violation under the state's law. The attorney general's office sent out the letters following complaints received by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

"Illegal cigarette sales hamper our efforts to prevent youth access to tobacco products," Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens said. "We intend to follow up on any reports of retailers selling individual cigarettes."

According to Tobacco Free Kids data, 8,100 underage Tennesseans become smokers each year.

"Research has revealed that the younger an individual starts smoking, the stronger their addiction," Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper said. "So, we think it is of vital importance that retailers not sell single cigarettes, as these can lead to a lifetime of smoking addiction."

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities has also joined in the action to stop the sale of loosies, citing the importance of ensuring tobacco is not sold to minors.

"The Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities must comply with federal block grant requirements for the prevention of youth access to tobacco," Virginia Trotter Betters, the department's commissioner, said. "I hope that retailers will be responsible and understand that selling single cigarettes to kids could cause our State to lose this important federal funding which is critical for alcohol and drug treatment."

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