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NEW YORK -- South Dakota retailers have one of the best compliance rates in the nation in selling tobacco products to minors, having erred only 7.6 percent of the time, reported The Aberdeen (S.D.) News.
In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, South Dakota was among nine states scoring below 8 percent, according to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the newspaper reported.
Connecticut and Colorado topped the list at 5.4 percent, with a national average of 14 percent -- down from 16.3 percent.
"It's a good sign that fewer stores are selling cigarettes to children, but we still have a long way to go if we hope to prevent another generation of smokers," said Tommy G. Thompson, Health and Human Services Secretary, in a written statement.
According to the Aberdeen News, these results are from reports submitted by states in response to a 1992 federal law that forced states to enact youth access restrictions and conduct unannounced annual inspections of tobacco outlets. This law also required states to meet a goal of 20 percent or below for retailer noncompliance.
States began their unannounced inspections of retailers in 1996. When tested that year, 86 percent of South Dakota retailers were caught in a sting -- a rate 11 times worse than this year, according to the report.
Officials attribute the turnaround to law enforcement and retailers who have trained employees to consistently ask for identification before selling cigarettes The Aberdeen News reported.
On the flip side, Montana retail stores sold cigarettes to minors 23 percent of the time, scoring one of the worst compliance rates in the nation, according to the Billings Gazette. The state ranked second worst, behind Alaska.
States where noncompliance rates were greater than 20 percent -- considered a failing inspection -- included Alaska, 30.2 percent; Montana, 23.3 percent; Tennessee, 22.3 percent; Wisconsin, 20.7 percent; Kansas, 20.6 percent; and Oklahoma with 20.1 percent.