Farmington vape shop cited for selling to minor

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 21, 2020

 V.I.P. Smoke and Vape in downtown Farmington was recently caught selling a nicotine vape product to a minor during a Farmington Public Safety Department compliance operation.

V.I.P. Smoke and Vape in downtown Farmington was recently caught selling a nicotine vape product to a minor during a Farmington Public Safety Department compliance operation.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

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FARMINGTON — An 18-year-old clerk at V.I.P. Smoke & Vape, 33317 Grand River Ave., was cited Dec. 17 with selling a nicotine-based vaping product to a minor during a routine compliance check operation by the Farmington Public Safety Department.

The clerk was issued a misdemeanor violation, which carries a $250 fine.

This was the second time a clerk at the shop has been cited for selling to an underage person. A different clerk was cited in 2018. Current store owner Zayed “Eddy” Najjar said the store was under different ownership at that time.

On the day of compliance checks, Farmington Public Safety Director Frank Demers said, the department checked 11 local stores that carry and sell nicotine- and vape-based products. Ten of the 11 stores passed the compliance check.

“Our stores and store clerks play by the rules, and I think we have a lot of evidence to show that. … That’s been demonstrated over and over again,” Demers said. However, he said, the one that failed “clearly demonstrated they’re noncompliant with the law, and obviously tickets and failing decoy operations have not helped them learn their lesson.”

But Najjar said the shop has learned its lesson and has taken steps since the incident to stop the same thing from happening again.

The clerk who was cited with the underage sale was fired from the company, and the shop implemented a new age-verification system into its point-of-sale computers, which forces clerks to swipe the customers’ identification — a state ID or driver’s license — before the register will open.

“I’m hoping that takes care of it,” Najjar said.

On top of these changes, Najjar’s shop has a sign on the door indicating that minors — those under age 18 — should not patronize his store. He said his store clerks are trained on how to check someone’s ID properly and how to look for fakes.

“We have something that they flip every day that says if they’re born before a specific date to ask for ID, and that day would make them about 27 (years old),” Najjar said. “Some people get mad when you ask them for ID, even though it’s part of the law. We train them to get over that. … We give them all the pitfalls people fall into, and that’s all we can do.”

Demers acknowledged, however, that minors could still get away with purchasing those items.

“These clerks are not trained police officers. If they see an ID that looks legitimate and use all their tricks and tools to confirm it, and it turns out to be false, that happens. We realize that,” he said. “We offer our involvement in terms of training them on what to look for, or some techniques kids may use, but, ultimately, it’s on them.”

Demers said local ordinances do not require shops to be closed down regardless of the number of citations. He said that’s because stores currently don’t need a license to sell vape products.

Najjar said an incident of this nature still can have negative implications against his business.

“It would destroy my business. … I’d lose my contract with the cigarette companies and with Juul, who is very stringent with this. If you get one of these violations on your record, they don’t allow you to sell their stuff,” he said. “It’s not worth it to me.”

Najjar is waiting for the former employee’s court proceedings to be finalized to know whether his business may be hurt by the citation.

“Even though it was technically an employee of the old ownership, it’s not an excuse. I have to deal with what I have to deal with. That’s life. What can I do?” he said.

Najjar said he doesn’t support the sale or possession of these products by minors.

“I have seven children of my own. I wouldn’t want anybody selling to my children,” he said. “I currently support the age increase to 21 (years old).”

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