FARMINGTON — If you're underage and trying to buy cigarettes in Davis County, you might want to think twice.

A year ago, Davis health officials were dismayed to learn that during undercover investigations of tobacco retailers, youths successfully purchased tobacco products 14.3 percent of the time, compared to a rate of 8.3 percent for the entire state.

But between July 2007 and June 2008, out of 449 attempts to purchase tobacco products by undercover underage buyers, just 6.3 percent were successful. Statewide, the rate was 7.6 percent.

It marks the end of a rising trend over the previous three years, said Davis County Health Department director Lewis Garrett.

"2006 and 2007 were alarming to us," Garrett said, adding that it was especially alarming that Davis County's buy rate was higher than all of Utah's.

Four times a year the health department, in partnership with local police departments, investigates Davis County's 115 tobacco retailers, said Amanda Webb, a community health educator in the Davis County Health Department's Health Promotion Bureau.

In 2007, 77 stores were recognized for complying with laws banning the sale of tobacco products to minors. This year, 85 retailers are being recognized.

Six stores will be recognized for at least 10 years of compliance: the Centerville Albertsons; the Main Street 7-Eleven and Albertsons of Kaysville; Layton's Main Street Sinclair and Hill Stop; and the Saigon Market of Sunset.

Five-year compliance awards will be given to Rite Aid, Smith's Marketplace and Walgreens, of Bountiful; Albertsons, of Clinton; Smith's Marketplace, of Farmington; and the 1000 North Maverik, in Layton.

Seventy-four other stores will be recognized for declining to sell tobacco products to minors over the past year.

Clerks who sell tobacco products to a person under 19 are guilty of a class C misdemeanor and are issued citations at the time of the violation. Stores also receive fines for the first two violations and a 30-day tobacco license suspension on the third violation. A fourth violation within a year can mean a one-year tobacco license suspension.

Garrett praised the county's tobacco-compliance program.

"This program in Davis County runs very, very smoothly," he said, adding that similar programs elsewhere don't run well. "We've taken the time to put a policy in place."

"We conduct a very robust program aimed at educating tobacco retailers how to train their clerks to identify underage buyers, and it must be paying off," he said in a news release.

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