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CHEYENNE, Wis. -- Despite two years of an anti-tobacco campaign, 5 percent more stores in Wyoming sold cigarettes to teens this year than in 2000.
Teens taking part in a state-sponsored educational program called Rewards and Reminders bought cigarettes at 13.9 percent of stores. The increase is still a significant drop in the number of stores that sold to minors prior to 2000 when 55 percent of stores were found selling cigarettes to minors, according to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.
State health officials expressed concern that despite the significant drop in sales to minors doesn't seem to be stopping kids from smoking. More than one-third of Wyoming high school students smoke, according to a report issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. That rate hasn't changed much in recent years.
"The real question is: Where are they getting cigarettes? That's what we've got to find out," said state Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander). "I thought [our anti-smoking programs] would tighten up the supply, but that doesn't seem to be happening."
State officials speculated that the increase seen in the past two years could be the result of poor clerk training. More than 180 clerks took part in a statewide video training offered at the end of April. But with high staff turnover at convenience stores and gas stations training is difficult.
Case said he is pleased with the drop in sales, but more work needs to be done to understand what motivates kids to smoke. "Maybe it's rebellion, and this is making it worse. Maybe it's peer pressure. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm not ready to walk away from prevention efforts," he said.