Having just recorded the lowest-ever rate of tobacco sales to minors, state officials said earlier this month that they are cautiously optimistic that the downward trend of illegal sales will continue.

Jeff Ruscoe, prevention coordinator in the Oregon Department of Human Services said clerks in nine counties complied with state law 100 percent of the time: Wallowa, Crook, Deschutes, Hood River, Malheur, Polk, Sherman, Union and Wheeler counties.

In counties where 10 or more retailers received an inspection visit, he said, the highest sales rates to minors were recorded in Clatsop and Tillamook counties with rates of nearly 65 percent and 39 percent, respectively. Multnomah County had a sales rate of nearly 22 percent, the state's eighth highest.

The federally required inspection visits to more than 375 of Oregon's 2,800 known tobacco retailers statewide began early this month and continue into June.

This year inspectors will also check retailer compliance with a new law requiring tobacco products to be kept behind the counter or in a locked case if the store admits minors.

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