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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Concerned that Philadelphia has the highest underage smoking rate in the nation, City Council today voted unanimously to boost the fines for businesses who sell cigarettes to minors.

Once the measure is signed into law, merchants caught selling cigarettes to teens under age 18 will have to pay a $250 fine; the current penalty is $100.

Councilwoman Marian Tasco sponsored the bill that was initiated by the city’s Health Department.

“We are trying to accomplish healthier lifestyles, and we don’t want young people begining to smoke at an early age — at 13 and 14,” Tasco said on Thursday.  “And some of the merchants just sell because they just want to sell whoever comes into the door.”

One man who works in youth development at a high school in the Mayfair section of the city says the increased fine is  a start.   He says he would like to see the fine even higher, and he would like proprietors who sell cigarettes to kids over and over again should get jail time:

“I say, after repeated offenses at some point it is criminal — it becomes criminal to that extent, yes.”

Reported by John McDevitt, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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