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    Cigarette Sales to Minors Increase in Ohio

    Compliance check of retailers shows 4-percent rise in underage sales.

    XENIA, Ohio -- It was easier for minors to buy cigarettes in 2002 than it was a year ago, according to the Greene Combined Health District.

    The health district, along with the Tobacco-Free Greene County Coalition, conducted tobacco sales compliance checks at 96 Greene County businesses on Nov. 2, including convenience store, gas stations and drugstores.

    Of the businesses approached, 20 stores, or about 21 percent, allowed youth volunteers to purchase cigarettes. This percentage is up from 4 percent sales last year in a similar compliance check, the Dayton (Ohio) Daily Newsreported.

    Ohio Senate Bill 218, which became law in March 2001, makes it illegal for youth younger than 18 to possess, use or purchase tobacco products. It also is illegal for anyone to sell tobacco products to minors. The health department plans to send a letter to each vendor where cigarettes were purchased. Police also have the option of following up, Pappa said, but citations cannot be issued unless an officer was onsite at the time of the sale.

    The increase in sales in the last year is disturbing, according to health department officials. The health district conducts the compliance checks regularly to monitor the illegal sale of tobacco products to children. Tobacco kills nearly 20,000 Ohioans annually.

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