FARMINGTON -- Nearly 400 times in the last fiscal year, a minor asked a retailer for cigarettes or some other tobacco product in Davis County as part of an undercover sting.
And most of the time, the clerks said no to that underage customer, according to the Davis County Health Department.
Officials report that from July 2009 to June 2010, underage buyers supervised by local law enforcement made 390 attempts to purchase tobacco items.
"Of those 390 attempts, 36 resulted in an illegal sale of tobacco to a minor for a county buy rate of 9.2 percent," said Davis County Health Department Director Lewis Garrett.
In 2008, the rate in the county was 6 percent and it has risen slowly since then.
"I'm concerned that our county's rate increased a percentage point from the previous period, but it's still well below the high of 14 percent we saw for the July 2006 through June 2007 time frame," he said.
Garrett believes his department conducts a robust program aimed at educating tobacco retailers about how to train their clerks to identify underage buyers.
The county program to reduce underage access to tobacco has been running in some cities since 1989.
Some retailers have been awarded certificates of recognition by the county for not selling tobacco products to minors for as long as 15 years.
Another group of retailers has a 10-year record of compliance, and in all, 81 were recognized for their adherence to the law.
Some of the stores where the 36 illegal buys were made were repeat violators, said Annie Wiseman, a community health educator for the Davis County Health department.
"We check every retailer four times within a 12-month period," said Wiseman.
Sale of tobacco products to a person under 19 is a Class C Misdemeanor on the first offense. Clerks are issued citations at the time of the violation. In addition, store owners are subject to civil penalties for sale of tobacco to an underage buyer. Stores are fined for the first two violations; on a third violation, their license to sell tobacco is suspended for 30 days.
Freeport Chevron in Clearfield was the only store to reach the level of three violations during the last fiscal year, Wiseman reported.
Upon the fourth violation within a 12-month period, the store's license to sell tobacco is revoked. But no stores were reported by Wiseman to reach that level in the yearly numbers.
A store's fine may be reduced if it has a documented training program and proof that their employee was trained.