08/19/2013 08:24 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. health authority catching more stores selling tobacco to minors

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - New figures from B.C.'s Interior Health Authority indicate a drop in the number of retailers complying with laws designed to keep tobacco away from minors.

But the health authority suggests the numbers have more to do with an increase in enforcement than a sudden spike in sales to people under 19.

Interior Health says the region's tobacco compliance program has recorded a compliance rate this year of 88 per cent throughout the district, with that number at 83 per cent in Kamloops.

That's compared to a compliance rate of 98 per cent in 2012.

Jen Jacobsen, who oversees the compliance program, says the change is likely largely due to the health authority concentrating its monitoring on retailers that are considered at a higher risk to sell to minors.

Jacobsen says offenders face an escalating series of penalties, with a warning letter for the first offence and violation tickets for subsequent offences.