DR. WALLACE: I work in a convenience store on the weekends while I attend community college. Often teenagers come in and ask to buy cigarettes, but my employer has told me that I need to “card” everyone who asks to buy smokes no matter how old they look, or he’ll get fined.
Is this true? Will I have to pay if our store gets caught selling cigarettes to minors? — Convenience clerk, via email
CONVENIENCE CLERK: State laws prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors. Laws differ in some states. The offense is a violation, and the retailer is indeed subject to fines for selling cigarettes to a minor.
Penalties for misdemeanor offenses can include jail time of up to one year and fines of up to $1,000, depending on the local jurisdiction involved.
Generally, the person who sells the cigarettes is liable, so this includes managers, supervisors, cashiers or clerks. Do yourself a favor and be sure to request identification from any customer at your place of employment who could potentially be underage.
DR. WALLACE: Our family lives in a rather small town in rural Illinois. School just started and now I’m in ninth grade. Our school is kind of small and most everybody knows one another from previous school years.
Recently, I noticed a new family moved into our community and they have two kids who now also go to the same high school as me. I know how it is to be the new kid and how awkward it can be to meet new people, so should I say something to them? If so, what? Or would it be rude of me to approach them since they might not need my help at all anyway? — Unsure student, via email
UNSURE STUDENT: Being a new kid at school can indeed make any student feel like an outsider for the first few weeks. It can also be lonely and awkward, as you pointed out.
I suggest that you be proactive and knock on their door and introduce yourself. Let these kids and their family know that you’d be happy to help them in any way you can to be more comfortable at their new school. It’s as simple as that! You don’t need to say anything more as I trust your introduction will be very well received and their questions will soon flow.
Do your best to answer their questions about the school and let them know they already know a student there, as I trust this will help them out quite a bit. And if they live close to you, then it’s certainly all right to ask them if they might want to walk to and from school with you from time to time.
I urge you to let go of your apprehension in approaching them and to be your friendly self toward them. The fact that you considered this issue enough to write to me here tells me you are a friendly person of good character — so simply be yourself!
Dr. Robert Wallace will answer questions from readers in this column. Email him at email@example.com.