Madera Police cracking down on adults who buy tobacco products for kids

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a problem across the country. More underage kids are getting their hands on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

And in Madera, the police department is cracking down.

"People who'll buy kids tobacco products or alcohol for that matter, They're out there. It happens I would say. I'm sure it happens every day," said Madera Police Department Sgt. Steve Boehm.

The Madera Police department recently started a program to reduce underage smoking in the city.

The operation involves using the teen as a decoy while officers stand by and wait to see if the suspect takes the bait.

The department says after just three operations, they have already arrested 10 people willing to buy kid's tobacco products.

"They're really nonchalant like 'oh I'm just trying to help a kid out, or I thought he was older even though we make it clear how old they area or they look young," said Madera Police Department Sgt. Shawn Bushey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2016, more than two million middle and high school students across the country used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

In Madera County, Public Health Department employees say at least 10 percent of the county's youth had access to tobacco products in the last month.

"We're talking about young people experiencing a lot of brain development, now using a chemical, being exposed to nicotine that could have a serious impact to their brain and developmental function," said Madera County Department of Public Health Alan Gilmore.

In California, the legal age to smoke and buy tobacco products went up to 21 in 2016.

Police say they are still trying to get that message out in hopes of improving public health in the future.

"It allows us to help the community as far as stopping young adults from forming the habit in the first place," said Madera Police Department Sgt. Steve Boehm.
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