12 Year Nationwide Drop in Tobacco Sales to Minors Continues

Source: SAMHSA News Release 8/11/09

12 Year Nationwide Drop in Tobacco Sales to Minors Continues Under State/Federal Partnership Program

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) today announced that sales of tobacco to underage youth (those younger than age 18) have continued to decline, and have in fact reached historic lows under the Synar Amendment program – a federal and state partnership program aimed at ending illegal tobacco sales to minors.

The Synar Amendment (introduced by the late Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma) requires states to have laws and enforcement programs for prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco to persons under age 18.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have for the third year in a row achieved a major Synar program goal – a less than 20 percent non-compliance rate among tobacco product retailers.  This stands in sharp contrast with the situation 12 years ago at the Synar program’s inception when the highest reported non-compliance rate was 75 percent.

“This report along with other published studies indicates that real progress is being made in preventing illegal tobacco sales to minors,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, DDS, MPH. “Continued state vigilance will build on our track record of success in protecting children from the public health menace of tobacco.”

SAMHSA’s FFY 2008 Annual Synar Reports: State Compliance shows that the average national tobacco retailer violation rate dropped to 9.9 percent for federal fiscal year 2008, down from 40.1 percent in 1997. The national average is at its lowest point in Synar’s 12-year history.

The SAMHSA report also highlights many of the innovative ways that States have successfully implemented the Synar Amendment program.  The approaches involve comprehensive strategies combining vigorous enforcement, supportive public policies and development of social climates discouraging youth tobacco use.

Under the regulations implementing the Synar Amendment, States and other jurisdictions must report annually to SAMHSA on their retailer violation rates, which represent the percentage of inspected retail outlets that sold tobacco products to a customer under the age of 18. The amendment requires that retailer violation rates not exceed 20 percent. States and jurisdictions measure their progress through random, unannounced inspections of tobacco retailers, and SAMHSA provides technical assistance to help states comply.

Reducing the illegal sales rate of tobacco to minors through enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors is one of the specific tobacco objectives (objective 27-14) in Healthy People 2010, the nation’s disease prevention and health promotion goals and objectives for the decade.

FFY 2008 Annual Synar Reports: State Compliance, which includes compliance rates for each of the States and the District of Columbia, is available at http://prevention.samhsa.gov/tobacco/synarreportfy2008.pdf.  For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/.

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