Underage tobacco sales-rate nearly 15 percent last year

A new report shows nearly 15 percent of tobacco retailers in Washington state sold tobacco products to minors last year, according to the state Department of Health.

That’s about the same level reported in 2012, but an increase from levels in previous years such as 2009, when about 9 percent of retailers sold tobacco to minors.

The rate of stores selling tobacco to minors is tracked in through annual Synar Report, compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Officials from local health agencies and the state Liquor Control Board conduct compliance checks on randomly selected retailers, using underage teenagers who attempt to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Retail clerks who sell tobacco to minors can face fines up to $100. Store owners can be fined up to $1,500 and have their licenses revoked for up to five years.

According to the state health department, if the rate of retailers selling tobacco to minors in Washington exceeds 20 percent, the state could lose $13.5 million dollars in federal funding for drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention and treatment.

While the compliance checks determine the rate of illegal sales, concerned citizens can report violators on the Liquor Control Board’s website.

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