Arizona Kids Have 15-Percent Success Rate When Buying Cigarettes Without ID. AG Tom Horne Pissed

Arizona kids have about a 15-percent success rate when trying to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from retail outlets across the state -- and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is pissed.

"For every 20 minors that walk into a store in Arizona to buy cigarettes, three of them -- without fake ID's or lying or even trying to hide their true age -- will be able to buy cigarettes," Horne says.

The AG's Office released figures yesterday outlining the failure rates of retail outlets when it comes to selling underage kids tobacco products.

According to Horne, tobacco retailers across the state are failing to ID kids trying to buy cigarettes 14.6-percent of the time, according to the results of an investigation that targeted 1,979 tobacco retailers across the state.

In the more rural parts of the state -- Apache, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Navajo, and Pinal counties -- the failure rate was 25 percent or higher.

"My office is serious about preventing tobacco sales to minors," Horne continues. "We regularly send out underage volunteers who attempt to make purchases, and if they are offered the opportunity to buy tobacco products by a store clerk, that is a violation of state law. The clerk is held personally liable for paying a fine of up to $300, which should be a powerful disincentive for anyone to sell tobacco to a minor."

Horne's solution: a far-from-clever campaign of public service announcements with the catch phrase "pay the price" (not quite as catchy as "click it or ticket.") to remind retailers who sell tobacco to kids of the $300 fine they face if caught.

Horne says the Attorney General's Office has released a 30-second T.V. PSA -- as well as an accompanying radio spot -- with the aforementioned slogan that will be broadcast statewide.

A spokeswoman for the AG's Office is looking into how much these PSAs cost, and who's paying for them. We'll let you know when she gets back to us.
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James King
Contact: James King