What is TEP?
The Tobacco Education program (TEP) is a four hour program focused on myths and facts about tobacco. In South Carolina it is unlawful for a minor under the age of 18 to purchase, possess, or attempt to possess tobacco products and/or to present false proof of age in an attempt to purchase or possess these products. The TEP program is offered to individuals by court mandate who have received a minor in possession of tobacco citation and also available to groups on a voluntary basis.
The TEP is offered as an alternative to penalties for:
• Students who face suspension for violation of a school tobacco-use policy.
• Young people who break one of the state’s laws regarding underage tobacco
The program consists of four sections that address and educate youth about:
• Tobacco use
• Effects of tobacco use
• Healthy alternatives to smoking
• Resources to quit using tobacco products
By the end of the training, participants will:
• Understand the dangers of tobacco use.
• Understand reasons that they should consider quitting their use of tobacco products.
• Learn about resources to help them stop smoking.
Who can refer young people to TEP?
School Resource Officers
Schools can choose to refer students facing school violations and/or civil fines for possession or use of tobacco on or around school property.
Groups or agencies that work with at-risk youth (e.g., Department of Juvenile Justice, alternative programs) can refer participants.
Law Enforcement Officers
Law enforcement often has the first contact with offending young people and can serve as a valuable source of referrals.
With their ability to mandate participation in SC TEP in lieu of fines, etc., the courts are the primary source of referrals.
South Carolina Tobacco Laws
The Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act of 2006, which went into effect in August of that year, states that is unlawful for a minor under the age of 18 to purchase, possess, or attempt to possess tobacco products and/or to present false proof of age in an attempt to purchase or possess these products.
• A civil fine of $25
• A total fine that can exceed $100 after court costs and fees
• An individual’s failure to complete his/her sentence gives the court the option to restrict driving privileges for 90 days or to deny issuance of a driver’s license 90 days past eligibility.
TEP is approved by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.
Youth Access to Tobacco Study
According to the 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 9.8% of Barnwell County youth in grades nine through 12 are current smokers, a rate that is higher than the national average (15.7%). As a result, The Axis I Center has made a major commitment to preventing underage tobacco use by encouraging retailers to comply with state laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors.
For those persons wanting to refer a teen to the TEP program or request that TEP be presented to youth in their organization should contact Pam Rush,
Director of Prevention Services, at 803-541-1245 ext. 246.