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14% OF UNDERAGE AGENTS SUCCEED IN BUYING TOBACCO

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Only 14 percent of the undercover teenagers sent in to test the state prohibition on selling tobacco to minors were successful in their purchase attempts in Davis County last year.

That's good news because it's down from the 20 percent to 22 percent purchase rate the year before, according to county health department spokesman Kevin Con-dra.The county regularly uses volunteer, underage agents who try to buy cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other products in grocery and convenience stores.

Selling tobacco products to people under 19 is a misdemeanor. The county health department has been running an intensive education and enforcement campaign aimed at store owners and employees to enforce the law.

The county's health promotion workers have made more than 500 visits to stores in the past three years, according to Condra, who said the statistics for the fiscal year that ended in June are very promising.

"The drop reflects voluntary efforts of numerous retailers to reduce sales to minors," he said.

One grocery chain, Bowman's in Kaysville and Farmington, and the PayLess drug chain, with stores in Bountiful and Layton, have stopped selling tobacco products entirely.

The undercover agents, who act under direct supervision from a county employee and with the knowledge of local police departments, attempted two or three purchases from each targeted store during the year, more if some of the buy attempts were successful.

If successful buys were made, the store owner was notified of the time and date of the violation and more attempts were scheduled.

Of the 91 retail outlets visited in the past year, 55 refused to sell tobacco products to the agents in each of two to four visits. Most violations were only a single recorded sale but six stores targeted had two violations.