Law enforcement agencies around Cherokee County cracked down on the selling of vapor products to underage buyers in a sting operation Thursday.
Sixteen out of 87 local businesses were cited for sales to teens working with police in the operation.
The legal age in Georgia to purchase and use vapor products such as e-cigarettes is 18.
“After receiving a number of complaints about underage persons buying these products we were eager to partner with other law enforcement agencies in an effort (to) stop the sale of these products to our youth,” Cherokee County Chief Marshal Ron Hunton said.
The businesses where authorities allege illegal sales occurred were:
♦ X Hale City, 9745 Highway 92, Woodstock
♦ Smoke 911, 8265 Highway 92, Woodstock
♦ Bells Ferry Chevron, 11429 Bells Ferry Road. Canton
♦ Sixes Road Texaco, 3780 Sixes Road, Canton
♦ Exxon Food Mart, 6425 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock
♦ Riverside Express Food and Gas, 875 Towne Lake Parkway, Woodstock
♦ Ole 5 Vapor, 5335 Old Highway 5, Canton
♦ Shell Food Mart, 9595 Main St., Woodstock
♦ Shell Food Mart, 226 Towne Lake Parkway, Woodstock
♦ Chevron Food Mart, 238 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock
♦ BP Gas Station, 12162 Highway 92, Woodstock
♦ C.J. Market Place, 14297 Fincher Road, Canton
♦ JBS Food Mart, 6929 Cumming Highway, Canton
♦ Friendly Mart, 2267 Hightower Road, Ball Ground
♦ Ole 5 Vapor, 4047 Marietta Highway, Suite 100 Canton
♦ Tobacco Mart, 1750 Marietta Highway, Suite 200 Canton
Names of the suspects charged will be released after they are officially arrested and booked into the Cherokee County jail.
“I want to thank all the agencies involved as well as our partnership with Cherokee Focus Drug Free Cherokee Coalition in this effort,” Hunton said. “I also want to remind all retailers in the County to ask for identification when selling these products or any product requiring ID — this type operation will be repeated in the future.”
Officers from the Marshal’s Office, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, Canton Police, Woodstock Police, Holly Springs Police and the Cherokee County School Police assisted with the operation.
Of the approximately 15 teenagers ages 14-17 who helped police, most are involved in public safety Explorers troops or the school system’s “law and justice” classes, said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office.
The timing of the operation was not coincidental, authorities said, given a rise in youths using e-cigarettes.
In May the Cherokee County School Board unanimously approved an updated student discipline code for the new school year, which starts next week and significantly toughens punishments for student use of e-cigarettes — commonly called vaping.
Beginning on the first day of school, any students found with vaping devices or oil will be treated as if they are in possession of felony-level marijuana.
The “zero-tolerance” policy calls for punishments including immediate external suspension from school, long-term reassignment to an alternative school and possible expulsion.
According to Cherokee County School District, a rising number of students are using the devices at school.
The policy will shift the burden to students to prove that their devices and oils do not contain marijuana-derived THC oil in order to avoid the most serious punishments, but even if that is proven, students still will face discipline for possessing nicotine-based or other vaping products.
In addition to communication shared with parents last school year about the dangers of any vaping, school district officials plan to launch a more extensive public awareness campaign next school year. This campaign will include a student public service announcement video contest, with a $500 cash prize donated by the Service League of Cherokee County.
“Students and their parents need to understand that vaping is dangerous: short-term, you can overdose and suffer serious resulting health problems or death; long-term, you can damage your brain and lungs … and maybe worse, as too little research has been done,” said Superintendent Brian Hightower when the policy was approved. “We hope students who are vaping and may be addicted to nicotine or THC will heed this warning and seek immediate help for treatment.”