SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The number of stores selling cigarettes to minors is gradually falling in San Francisco.

Police in San Francisco often conduct youth decoy operations to tag merchants who are breaking the law by illegally selling cigarettes to minors.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Victim, Suspect Identified In Fatal Oakland Park Shooting in Front of Children

Derek Smith with the San Francisco Department of Public Health said since 2011, police sent minors into 454 stores and 13.4 percent were found to be breaking the law, down about 2 percent.

“What we do find is sometimes they are just so busy in the stores and have a lot of things going on that they don’t always think about it,” Smith said.

READ MORE: COVID: Youth, Adult Multi-Team Sports Can Resume In Alameda Co., Berkeley

61 merchants were cited for illegal sales to minors. That generally translates into a month long suspension of their tobacco permit.

“Because tobacco is such an addictive product, it really does take this entire community effort to keep our youth safe from a lifetime of tobacco addiction,” said Smith.

Despite the dip, San Francisco still lags behind the state, where the statewide rate of illegal tobacco sales to minors is 8.7 percent.

MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Missing San Francisco Girl Found Safe In Pittsburg With Michigan Runaway

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)