Illegal tobacco sales to minors in California have dropped to a record low, but certain types of stores continue to break the law at higher rates, according to state health officials.

Only 5.6 percent of retail outlets sold tobacco to minors in the 2011 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey, the lowest rate in the 16-year history of the survey, officials said.

When the survey started in 1995, teens were able to buy tobacco products in 37 percent of purchase attempts.

The rates have declined most among stores considered traditional tobacco retailers, such as liquor stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies, gas stations and tobacco shops.

However, among non-traditional tobacco retailers, such as doughnut stores, delis and meat markets, gift stores and produce markets, rates remain higher. Delis and meat markets showed rates of 11.6 percent in this year's survey, while discount and gift stores were at 8.3 percent.

"It is important to protect our youth from using tobacco which is deadly and addictive," said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health. "We are proud that fewer retailers are selling cigarettes to minors, but we have more work to do to guarantee that all kids in California grow up tobacco-free."

California has the second-lowest adult smoking prevalence in the nation at 11.9 percent.



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