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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
April 9, 2009

Grants Combat Teen Smoking

(Austin) — Tighter budgets may mean less money for schools and local police to enforce laws against teen smoking, but grants available from the Texas Comptroller’s office can help keep tobacco away from underage users.

“Texas teens illegally buy or smoke more than 67 million packs of cigarettes each year,” Comptroller Susan Combs said. “Combating this threat to our children’s health is critical, even during budget-conscious times.”

Grants ranging from $1,000 to $150,000 can be used for specific activities such as tobacco education, keeping schools and school events tobacco free and sting operations to catch retailers selling tobacco products to minors.

The deadline to apply for 2009-10 grants is May 4 for schools with on-campus law enforcement and May 11 for police departments, sheriffs, constables and district attorneys. The grant amount depends on the number of local tobacco retailers or the number of students who will receive education about smoking risks and the law against teen smoking.

The Fort Bend County sheriff’s office says the numbers prove the grant program works. They sent underage decoys to buy cigarettes 377 times last year, and 10 retailers sold tobacco to the minor, a buy rate of 2.7 percent. The sheriff’s office says that is a dramatic improvement since the first sting operations in 2001, when decoys were able to purchase cigarettes on 28.6 percent of their attempts.

More information and grant application forms can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at www.window.state.tx.us/lga/tcg/ or call (888) STEP-123.

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