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TULSA, Okla. -- The state Health Department took an unprecedented step this week by publishing the names and addresses of 220 Oklahoma stores that sold cigarettes last year to Oklahomans under the age of 18.
"Oklahoma has one of the worst records in the nation for selling tobacco to children," Health Commissioner Leslie Beitsch said. "This is tragic for the health of the state because half of the kids who experiment with smoking become regular smokers."
Although it is a public record, the violators' list has never been published electronically by the Health Department. The list was compiled by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission, according to The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma City has 28 stores with violations; Tulsa has six.
Publishing the names and locations of the stores was called unwise and unfair by Mike Thornbrugh, government relations manager for QuikTrip convenience stores in Tulsa.
"If that's what they want to do, that's their business," Thornbrugh said. "But they ought to also publish the list of stores that do a good job."
Oklahoma State law stipulates "persons selling tobacco products shall demand proof of age if an ordinary person would conclude that the person wanting the tobacco may be under 18." A first offense by the seller or the buyer carries a $100 fine. The fine for a second offense is $200; for a third, $300, the report said.
A store cannot have its tobacco license suspended unless the same clerk is caught three times selling to minors. Retailers say keeping cigarettes out of the hands of minors is difficult because of an abundance of fake identification cards used by teen-agers, high staff turnover and an unfamiliarity with Oklahoma anti-tobacco laws.