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A study published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reports that the method federal regulators use to monitor illegal underage tobacco sales fails to detect most stores that sometimes sell cigarettes to adolescents.

The study, co-authored by several leading researchers of the topic, found that the federal method of a single purchase attempt by an undercover minor identified only one-third of the violators that were found when the same stores were visited six times over a period of weeks.

Less than half of the 201 randomly chosen stores always refused the underage tobacco purchase attempts, and more than one-fourth sold tobacco to the minors two or more times.

Federal and most state laws require stores to examine an ID when a tobacco customer looks underage. Although the stores asked for ID more than 90 percent of the time in the study, two-thirds of the violations occurred after the minor presented his or her ID showing that they were 15 or 16 years old.

“The argument the industry has started making is that they’ve shown themselves to be complying with the law and everyone should leave them alone and not try to enforce the laws more strictly. But the federally

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