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Illegal Tobacco Sales to U.S. Minors Reach All-Time Low

THURSDAY June 30, 2011 -- Illegal tobacco sales to minors have reached an all-time low in the United States as the result of a historic federal and state partnership, according to a federal government report.

The average national retailer violation rate in 2010 was 9.3 percent, the lowest level in the 14-year history of a federal program that requires states and U.S. jurisdictions to have laws and enforcement programs prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco to people younger than 18.

This program -- known as the Synar Amendment and named after the late Democratic Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma -- was enacted in July 1992.

Since the program began, there has been a clear downward trend in tobacco sales to underage youth (those under 18), with the exception of 2009, when it increased to 10.9 percent from 9.9 percent the previous year, according to the report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Every state in the country has complied with the Synar regulation for five years in a row. In 2010, 47 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia had non-compliance rates below 15 percent, compared with 43 states in 2009. Non-compliance rates below 10 percent were also achieved by 34 states in 2010, compared with 22 in 2009.

When the Synar program was introduced 14 years ago, the highest reported state violation rate was 72.7 percent.

"This report brings welcome news about the measurable progress states have made in reducing illegal sales of tobacco to minors," SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in an agency news release. "Reducing access to tobacco products is only one part of the equation. Progress in reducing actual tobacco use among young people has stalled. Putting into place new prevention efforts that reach youth in meaningful ways can go a long way toward eliminating the health risk of tobacco use."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about youth and tobacco.

Posted: June 2011


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