Penalty for selling cigarettes to underage decoy reduced

A tiny Chinatown store accused of selling cigarettes to an underage decoy had a tobacco license suspension reduced after it claimed that the decoy’s ID was damaged and difficult to read.

Sam & Son Market, which opens on Powell Street at 5 a.m. to sell newspapers, cigarettes, lottery tickets and snacks, was initially suspended by the San Francisco Department of Public Health from selling tobacco for 25 days because it sold cigarettes to an underage police decoy on May 2.

But the San Francisco Board of Appeals reduced that suspension to 20 days after the business owner said his wife, who he described through a translator as illiterate and suffering vision problems, checked the decoy’s ID but sold the cigarettes anyway.

The ID was crumpled and the laminate was bubbled, perhaps because it had been left in clothes when they were sent to a dry cleaner, the business owner said through his translating son, William Chan.

The Department of Public Health was unable to produce a copy of the decoy’s ID, leading the Board of Appeals to vote 4-1 to reduce the suspension to 20 days.

Board members also expressed sympathy during the hearing for Sam & Son Market because it’s a small business.

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