Cops Cracking Down on Smoking

Hundreds of thousands of your taxpayer dollars are spent every year in Amarillo to fight tobacco use by minors.

The good news is it's working, slowly but surely.

Newschannel 10's Marissa Bagg has more on how police are cracking down on kids and what parents and students have to say about it. 

Amarillo police are catching kids one of two ways. By looking for teen smokers near school or going into retail stores with a minor to see if clerks will sell tobacco to the teen. 

10% of the time, clerks sell tobacco to the kids at a store.

The numbers are much higher when officers go looking for kids smoking outside. Odds are every time they look, they find at least one teen lighting up. In the first three months of this school year alone, officers gave out 108 citations to kids found smoking.

"It's a full-frontal attack, we're attacking it from both directions and it's great," says Melynn Huntley, with Impact Futures, an organization that works with the Amarillo Independent School District.

Huntley says it's great because data shows Amarillo is no longer above the state average when it comes to the number of teens who use tobacco.

"I think they're better for the kids because I see kids smoking all the time and I think it's so nasty," says Stefani Tanner, a Freshman in Amarillo. 

"I think it's great, the kids that get caught, it's sad they have to pay the consequences but a few dollars today means nothing compared to future life," says Roger Whitehead, a grandfather of a high school student.

If a minor gets a citation they have to go to classes to learn about tobacco, do volunteer work, they could lose their license for 6 months or even have to pay a $250 fine.

"If they get away with tobacco they think they can get away with other things so to me it's important to be out there looking for the gateway which is tobacco," says Huntley.

On average kids first experiment with tobacco in 4th or 5th grade. Huntley says that's a wake-up call that education on the drug needs to continue to be strong in the classroom.