Fewer Texas Retailers Selling Tobacco to Minors

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An annual survey of the state's tobacco retailers found that minors were able to illegally buy tobacco only 7 percent of the time, the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1997.

Under the direction of local law enforcement officials, 60 volunteer minors in the survey attempted to buy cigarettes or smokeless tobacco from retailers. Of the 961 unannounced attempts, 69 were successful.

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The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) coordinated the survey. Stores were selected from 19 counties to represent a sampling of the state.

The Texas law prohibiting tobacco sales to those under 18 went into effect in 1997. The level of illegal sales has declined from 24 percent in 1997 to 7 percent in 2006. The level for 2005 was 12.4 percent.

"Curbing youth access to tobacco has been a combined effort of state agencies, law enforcement and retailers," said Penny Harmonson, manager of the DSHS Tobacco Prevention and Control program. "We know that almost 90 percent of adult smokers started before age 18, so our goal is to prevent youth from ever starting."

Training and awareness programs are conducted throughout the state by DSHS, law enforcement agencies and the Texas Comptroller

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