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Oklahoma City students take stand  against alcohol, tobacco sales to minors

In a program at Eagle Ridge Institute, students from across the Oklahoma City  metro area are working as compliance checkers to try to stop vendors from  selling alcohol and tobacco to minors.

BY ADAM KEMP                                                                     |                      Published: September 5, 2012    Oklahoman         Comment on this article0

Brenda Martinez usually goes for a six-pack of Mexican beer when she enters a  convenience store. The 17-year-old knows the beer is usually near the back of the store, next to the milk and juice.

photo - Top left: Hiawatha Bouldin, group leader, is given giant marshmallows that will be used in a game for teens who are compliance checkers on cigarette and alcohol vendors. The volunteers were honored Aug. 25 at Eagle Ridge Institute.

Top left: Hiawatha Bouldin, group leader, is given giant  marshmallows that will be used in a game for teens who are compliance checkers  on cigarette and alcohol vendors. The volunteers were honored Aug. 25 at Eagle  Ridge Institute.

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Article  Gallery: Oklahoma City students take stand against alcohol, tobacco sales to  minors

As she takes her place in line behind a man buying a magazine, she can feel  the stares of the other customers, likely curious to see if she will get away  with it.

She places the beer on the counter and waits for the cashier’s judgment.  Other stores have asked for her ID; one even threatened to call police. But that  hasn’t stopped Martinez from trying to buy, again and again.

This time, the cashier rings up the sale without even looking at her. She  hands over a $20 bill and a look of disapproval.

The cashier gives her the change, which she places on the counter, and the  man with the magazine takes over the sting operation, joined by another undercover officer from the back of the store.

“I get a little upset because I don’t think I look even 17,” Martinez said. “It just makes me think that if they can sell it to me, they might sell to  younger kids than me.”

Martinez is a part of a group of compliance checkers coordinated by the Eagle  Ridge Institute.

Middle school and high school students volunteer to go to convenience stores,  restaurants and liquor stores and attempt to buy cigarettes and alcohol. The  students enter with undercover officers or sheriff’s deputies who wander about  the store while paying close attention to the teens.

If the cashier refuses to sell, the student leaves a note that reads, “Thank  you for not selling to minors.” If they do sell, the officers write a  citation.

Hiawatha Bouldin, who helps oversee the program as a certified prevention  specialist, said it’s not a game to trick the stores into selling. If cashiers  ask the students for their ages, they are required to tell the truth.

“We are going in to make sure that they are aware of the law, their policies  and procedures and we just want to make sure they are adhering to them,” said  Bouldin, 58. “These students are providing a service to the community.”

Penalties and rewards

Just as the clerks who do sell face felony charges and the possibility of 30  days of jail time and a $2,500 fine, the vendors that refuse to sell are  rewarded by the Eagle Ridge Institute with prizes like gift cards, a George  Foreman Grill and even a flat-screen TV.

Read more: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-students-take-stand-against-alcohol-tobacco-sales-to-minors/article/3707041#ixzz25nZThggQ

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