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FOR RELEASE: March 5, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

List of Oklahoma Retailers Selling Tobacco to Minors Disclosed by Health Officials

Today, health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) disclosed a list of retailers caught selling cigarettes to minors during 2001. The list was compiled by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement (ABLE) Commission from public records. To view the list, see the web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tobac/events.htm.

"Oklahoma has one the worst records in the nation for selling tobacco to children," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. "This is tragic for the health of the state because half of the kids who experiment with smoking become regular smokers," said Beitsch. "If current trends continue, over 60,000 Oklahoma children will die early from tobacco addiction."

About one of four stores checked by the ABLE Commission in 2001 were caught selling to a minor. Early results from checks now being conducted statewide show that Oklahoma may see even lower compliance this year. If the final 2002 compliance rates are worse than 2001, Oklahoma may be subject to a $7 million federal penalty. Local police are being encouraged to enforce local ordinances against illegal tobacco sales to help with the statewide crackdown.

"Predictably, the 'We Card' program being highlighted in television ads by Philip Morris has turned out to be a more of a public relations ploy than anything else," said Beitsch. "To reduce these profitable illegal sales, we have to make sure that all store owners take the addiction problem seriously. Current state laws are very weak on this subject. To my knowledge, the State of Oklahoma has never suspended the tobacco license of a store for selling cigarettes to kids."

A 2001 statewide public opinion poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 84 percent of Oklahomans support "imposing a fine on businesses that are caught selling tobacco to kids and temporarily suspending their tobacco license for repeated illegal sales."

Public observations of illegal tobacco sales may be reported to ABLE at 1-866-894-3517.

( Editor's Note: The list of non-compliant retailers is attached as a 25k PDF file. In order to view PDF files, you must download and install the free Adobe (TM) Reader. Complete instructions on dowloading and configuring the reader for your system are available at the Adobe (TM) Reader web site )

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