Vape sting nets clerks; citations issued

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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ORANGE — Continued citizen complaints about the sale of tobacco and vape products to minors prompted a group of local constables to made their third sweep in seven months.

On Tuesday, Orange County Constable Jeremiah Gunter assisted the help of constables Brad Frye, Lannie Claybar and Matt Ortego and made contact with about 18 stores.

Gunter said they used a minor in their operation who would go into the store and attempt to buy products.

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“While working for my office the minor can not lie about age or birth day,” Gunter said. “I truly believe that if they were allowed to lie the following numbers would be different. Most of these stores believe that the burden is no longer theirs if the minor just tells them they are old enough.”

The person in this instance was 16 but looked much younger.

During the sting there were six vapes purchased, one warrant arrest, one affidavit arrest, and 10 citations issued for sell/purchase/delivery/possession of tobacco to a minor.

Gunter said there were multiple locations that have sold to a minor more than once.

Upon arrival at one of the stores Gunter saw a minor leave with tobacco that was obviously not 21 years of age, he said.  The undercover person then went inside and purchased a tobacco product.

Gunter made contact with the first underage person who came out of the store and gave him a citation for possession then went inside and gave the clerk a citation for selling to a minor.

Gunter said at least one clerk mentioned she would not sale without ID because she was previously issued a citation.

“That is a win,” he said.

Gunter said the Orange County constables are a one-man department unlike Jefferson County with multiple officers. The Orange County constables are divided into four precincts to better cover the area.

While their required duties include serving papers and acting as bailiff, they, such as Gunter, opt to go above and beyond. He understands the dangers and the popularity of tobacco and vaping to young individuals.

Working with the school system allows the constables to get a glimpse of the pandemic; he said where kids ages, 12, 13, and 14 are already vaping.

The vapes, which come in a variety of flavors, are not FDA certified and many come from overseas with different regulations. The young kids vaping do not have the knowledge to understand their decision to vape or how it affects their health.