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    Washington Retailers Grade Well

    Sting operation at 12 stores finds just one Kmart noncompliant.

    SEATTLE -- A merchant compliance check conducted in Chehalis, Wash., found one of 12 businesses checked sold cigarettes to a minor.

    The check was conducted on July 12 by the state Liquor Control Board, the enforcers of the state's 1993 Minors Access to Tobacco Act. Of the 12 stores checked, 10 convenience stores passed. Only a Big Kmart sold cigarettes to a minor, according to the Washington Chronicle.

    Clerks who sell tobacco to anyone under age 18 can receive a $50 fine for a first-time offense. Tobacco retailers can be fined with increasingly severe penalties. Retailers who repeatedly violate the law are fined up to $1,500 and may have their license to sell cigarettes suspended for up to a year, according to state law.

    An annual tobacco sting conducted earlier this year in Lewis County caught five retailers out of 31 checked selling tobacco to minors, according to the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, the agency that conducts the checks required by federal law. The checks were made jointly with Lewis County Social Services.

    That compliance rate, of 84 percent, was down from a rate of 93 percent in the previous year, according to the report.

    The law also prohibits minors from purchasing or attempting to purchase tobacco products, with a penalty of a fine and a requirement to participate in a smoking cessation program. Minors are also prohibited by law from possessing tobacco. Those caught in possession are subject to a $50 fine plus court costs, four hours of community service and may be required to participate in a smoking cessation program.

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