HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On January 1, 2021, the law changed increasing the legal age to purchase cigarettes, vape products and other tobacco items from 18 to 21.
Local law enforcement said the change has caused confusion at some stores that continue to allow illegal transactions.
The Hendersonville Police Department has been conducting regular undercover stings to enforce the law.
“We found that more than one out of three businesses in our city alone have sold to underage persons,” said Sgt. Neal Harris with Hendersonville Police Department.
Sgt. Harris is confident it’s not just happening in his area but also across the state as well.
“We have a lot of people telling us that they didn’t realize that the age changed and that now you have to be 21 to buy a product,” he said.
The relatively new law causing some confusion, Sgt. Harris said, which is why they have got their boots on the ground trying to make a change.
This comes as they have seen a stark rise in youth vaping.
“The average age for kids to start vaping has been 14.” He added, “It’s gotten out of hand.”
Hendersonville Police test the waters by sending a minor into local stores to purchase vape products. If a transaction is made, then police move in.
“The officers will approach, make contact with the clerk, and say, ‘hey, you know, that person you just sold to was underage? You got to check ID. You didn’t do that.’ Then that person gets charged and goes to court,” he explained.
Business owners are not always aware of the illegal activity going on at their establishments.
“It’s something that’s very concerning to them.” Sgt. Harris continued, “They’ve got to be really vigilant in training all their staff to make sure they’re not selling to underage.”
He’s also encouraging parents to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.
“If they know of a business that they believe is selling to underage youth in our community. We hope that they would contact our local law enforcement so that we can go out and take enforcement action.”
To remain anonymous, you can call Hendersonville Crime Stoppers at (615) 594-4113.
Help your teen quit by contacting the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or text “quit” to (615) 795-0600 or visit this link right now.