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    Tobacco Compliance Improves in Louisiana, But Still a Challenge

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    BATON ROUGE, La. -- More than 7 percent of convenience stores, grocery stores and other retailers around Louisiana are illegally selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to children, according to data released from the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

    Those figures are a sharp decline from eight years ago, but nearly unchanged from last year, the Associated Press reported.

    Using undercover teens, random inspections and other methods, state officials checked about 800 of Louisiana's 10,200-plus tobacco retailers last July and August.

    Roughly 92.7 percent of the stores refused to sell tobacco products to people under the age of 18, compared to 92.6 percent a year earlier and, 28.8 percent in the 1997 report, the first year the state checked compliance.

    Nearly 13 percent of stores nationwide sold tobacco products to underage buyers in the 2004 compliance checks, the latest national numbers available.

    States can lose federal money if their compliance numbers fall too low, and clerks and the retailers they work for can be fined and go to jail for selling to under-aged buyers.

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