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    San Diego Stores Receive High Marks

    Alcohol displayed responsibly, according to a survey by middle-school students.

    SAN DIEGO -- Convenience stores and gas stations in San Diego received good grades from citizen watchdogs after an informal survey was conducted by 15 middle-school students on 30 grocery and convenience stores and gas stations. Most of the stores displayed alcohol responsibly, the students found.

    The merchants put it in the back, where youngsters are less likely to go, said Karen Pfeiffer, a survey coordinator. The study also found most stores locked up their cigarettes. The results were published in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    The survey was part of a federal drug-free communities program that was conducted through the local Social Advocates for Youth and North City Prevention Coalition. The survey found that 11 stores did not post signs that remind patrons they have to be 21 to purchase alcohol, and six stores did not post signs that tell customers they will be asked for identification when buying cigarettes. Nine stores also failed to put hard liquor, especially "travel size" bottles, in secure displays.

    At a press conference announcing the results, students suggested store owners take one step further to help youngsters resist the temptation of alcohol. They would like milk, sodas, toys and candy displayed away from alcohol.

    Auday Arabo, president of California Independent Grocers & Convenience Stores, which represents more than 500 merchants, said the trade association understands the youths' concerns. He said, however, he has never seen a store that puts milk next to alcohol.

    "We recommend to a lot of store owners they make room and put milk and toys on the side and not close to alcohol," Arabo said. "Sometimes store size comes into play, but the majority of independent owners have families and kids.

    "They understand the problems that come with alcohol and tobacco and, believe me, they do not want to increase tobacco and alcohol use."

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