MCSO sting operation targets tobacco sales to minors



Video report by Karen Brown

Posted on August 23, 2014 at 1:05 PM

PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is cracking down on tobacco sales to minors.

Sheriff's explorers went undercover Friday night and tried to buy tobacco products mainly from convenience stores around the Valley as part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Butt Out operation.

3TV's Karen Brown followed one of the 10 undercover teams, which included a 14-year-old explorer.

The teen tried to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco from about a half dozen stores while a deputy watched from nearby. None of the stores sold him tobacco products.

Arpaio said the results show that his crime sweeps are working as deterrents.

"I hope that we strike out," he said Friday, "because that means the managers, owners and clerks are asking for identification. I think that's a big victory if we don't make the buys."

The sheriff has targeted tobacco sales to minors since 1997 and says it is as much about cracking down on the sellers as it is about protecting minors.

"Some people want to do anything they can to make money and consequently sometimes our young people have to suffer," the sheriff said. "The guy that sold this (pack of cigarettes), what are they going to give him, a medal? You ought to go to jail for six months."

Asked why he was targeting tobacco in particular, he replied, "I'm an equal opportunity guy. I lock up everybody, so stay tuned."

He said an alcohol sting could be next.

Anyone caught selling tobacco to a minor could face a $300 fine.