Tobacco agents blowing smoke?

(April 29, 2004) — (Little Rock-AP) -- The state's Tobacco Control Board director says his agents have no incentive to use strong-arm tactics. But legislators and others complained about use of such tactics at a meeting yesterday. Board director Charlie Davis said all revenues from enforcing laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors go to state general revenues. The agency doesn't get the money, and he said paperwork is much greater when agents issue a citation. But state Tobacco Control Board officials pledged to look into reports of investigators' tactics. Some of the complaints went to the Legislative Joint Performance Review Committee. The complaints range from agents brow-beating clerks to sell cigarettes to minors to agents using minors with dual identification cards. Representative John Paul Verkamp of Charleston, a lawyer, said he had successfully defended a store clerk cited for selling cigarettes to a minor. Verkamp said the minor was accompanied by a tobacco control agent who became belligerent when the clerk first refused to sell tobacco products to the child. The lawmaker said the judge sided with Verkamp's argument of entrapment.