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LOGAN, Utah -- If you're underage in Utah and looking to buy cigarettes or beer, your chances are pretty slim.
That is the conclusion reached by the Bear River Health Department and law enforcement agencies after statewide checks of convenience stores and supermarkets over the past 10 months.
Of nearly 300 attempts to buy tobacco by minors working for police agencies, 14 were successful from July through April, said Farrin Wiese, co-coordinator of the Northern Utah Substance Abuse Prevention Team. That means stores and their clerks complied with the law 95 percent of the time.
But of the 181 attempts by minors to buy beer or wine coolers, 25 were successful. That is a compliance rate of 86 percent.
Just why clerks more readily sell alcohol than tobacco to youths is not clear, Wiese said. "I'd love to know that answer."
It could be because officials have been doing tobacco-compliance checks for more than a decade, but only began conducting alcohol checks in 1998. The stores and their clerks may thus be better educated about illegal tobacco sales, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Another possible reason is that Utah law does not carry civil penalties for the businesses that sell alcohol to minors, while it does for those selling tobacco. In both cases, clerks can be cited for actually making the sale, Wiese said.