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State Health Officials: Tobacco Sales To Minors High For Second Straight Year

The Washington state Department of Health says too many retailers are willing to sell tobacco to minors. The department reports 15 percent of stores failed compliance checks last year. 

Health Secretary John Wiesman says it’s the second year in a row with a high number, and this trend threatens some of the progress made in reducing youth smoking.

"This is really problematic, because when parents are doing the right thing, teaching their kids about tobacco harm, we don't want retailers putting tobacco on kids' hands and starting a lifetime of addiction," Wiesman said. 

The department checks on retailers by sending in underage teens to try to buy tobacco products. The rate of stores caught red-handed varies widely by county. King County, for example, fared well, with less than 7 percent of stores selling to minors. Compare that to the Kitsap Peninsula where some 40 percent of stores sold to kids. 

Wiesman says the uptick in illegal sales could stem from cuts to tobacco prevention efforts, which include educating retailers.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.