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Bainbridge community response to illegal flavored tobacco bust

After a months long investigations five tobacco stores in Bainbridge were caught selling flavored tobacco to undercover officer.
Bainbridge community response to illegal flavored tobacco bust.jpg
Posted at 7:11 PM, Oct 04, 2023
  • Police issued arrest warrants for five tobacco shop employees for alleged illegal favored tobacco sales to a underage person.
  • Bainbridge parents have complained to officers since March of this year after finding vaping products in their children bedrooms.
  • Police plan to continue to monitor local tobacco stores

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT

Illegal flavored tobacco sales in Bainbridge have neighbors calling for action not only from the city –but from other parents to rally against a growing problem.

They should lose their license to sell, period,” said a local grandparent, Harold Burrell.

Police have unraveled a series of illegal sales and I spoke to the undercover officer behind the investigation.

"I walked into the store and nobody really recognized me or who I was or what I was there for…,” According to the unidentified officer.

During our exclusive sit down the undercover officer said even after not providing any identification store clerks still went through with the illegal purchase.

"So you say you don't have an ID and they still sold [to you],” said WTXL reporter AJ Douglas.

"Yes,” said the undercover officer.

Bainbridge police established a special operation called Darth Vapor.

In that investigation the undercover officer successfully purchased flavored tobacco products without identification while underaged.

The unidentified officer is 20-years-old however Georgia law has required individuals be 21-years-old for any tobacco sales.

Bainbridge Public Safety Investigator, Joshua Glover said parents have complained after finding vaping products among their teenagers belongings.

Those teens range as young as 14 years old.

"Parents were calling saying they found their kids with vapes,” according to Glover.

I knocked on doors and talked to local parents in the Bainbridge community who say the community must come together to prevent kids from buying tobacco.

Marian Herman, Local grandparent

"Our kids are our future and we need to protect them and this should not be going on in our community,” said another local grandparent, Marian Hermon. 

I went to all five of the tobacco stores that were allegedly involved in the police string of issued arrest warrants.

One store manager at DJ Smoke Heaven said since the investigation they have updated store software that requires date of birth entry for all sales.

"We never sold to minors like 14 -15.. That was the first time something like that has happened to us,” said store manager of DJ Smoke Heaven, Jaimini Jariwala.

Jariawala herself admitted to selling products to the undercover officer.

She said although she sold the item to a 20-year-old adult, being a mother of a teenage son, she wouldn't want anyone selling to a teen.

DJ Smoke Heaven and DJ Smoke and Tobacco have updated software and added more signage. The store manager was issued two fines of a total of $1,300.

But, some residents said this is a bigger issue the city must address because the city has the power to both approve and revoke business licenses.

"I would think the city would be the first line of defense,” said Burrell. 

In a statement from Bainbridge city manager, Chris Hobby addresses the investigation reading in part quote.

"The City of Bainbridge is committed to protecting its young people while also respecting the rights of law-abiding retailers.

The statement goes on to say, "We are researching this issue and have not ruled out regulatory action by the city council." end part quote.

Residents interested in voicing thoughts or concerns are invited to attend the next public city council meeting scheduled October 17th at 6:30 p.m.