Dallas County sheriff’s deputies say too many stores sell tobacco and Marlboro to underage teenagers. Last year, 20 percent of retailers failed inspections by deputies, and 3 percent of them kept selling to minors, even after they were warned.

Deputies said they hope more state funding will help keep tobacco out of the hands of minors. The department will apply for another $90,000 state grant for another year of tobacco enforcement starting in September.

The grant money would cover the salary and overtime for one deputy, as well as costs of supplies and money to buy tobacco products during undercover operations. The Commissioners Court approved the grant application.

“It’s a huge problem with the youth in Dallas County,” Capt. Danny Shields said. “A lot of it is intentional. A whole lot of it is unintentional.”

Two deputies from the Tobacco Task Force educate, inspect and conduct undercover sting operations in stores that sell cigarettes and tobacco products.

Detective Dan Andrews told a Fuel City manager to complete the rest of the paperwork, but otherwise, the Dallas convenience store got a passing grade for posting the proper signage that warns of a potential $500 fine if the store sells tobacco to someone younger than 18.

“We don’t want to pay a fine,” store owner John Benda said. “I don’t mind the enforcement, and I encourage the rules that they have to enforce because it encourages my employees to be more attentive.”

Deputies have given out 30 tickets so far this year to other store owners and clerks for violating the tobacco laws.

Teenagers who try cigarettes and other tobacco products are more likely to turn to illegal drugs, deputies said.