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A year after Pierce County's ban on outdoor tobacco advertising was struck down by a federal court, ads have started reappearing in local newspapers and magazines, and sting operations have found that more stores are selling tobacco to minors.
The sting operations by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department found that about 10 percent of the targeted stores sold cigarettes to minors last year. So far this year, nearly 20 percent of stores have broken the law, which prohibits tobacco sales to anyone under 18 years of age.
State health officials say many factors could be responsible for the higher numbers, but that they are worried the resurgence in tobacco ads may be playing a role. Pierce County's ban on tobacco advertising was thrown out last spring by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the ban violated a federal law that prohibits states and local governments from adopting their own health-based restrictions on tobacco advertising.
Tobacco companies have maintained advertising is aimed at adults, not minors.