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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 4 - Fall 2002

Fewer Retailers Sell Cigarettes to Youth

SAMHSA reported in September that retailers continue to reduce sales of tobacco to children under age 18. Overall, the national retailer violation rate dropped to 16.3 percent in 2001 from 40.1 percent in 1996.

"It's a good sign that fewer stores are selling cigarettes to children, but we still have a long way to go if we hope to prevent another generation of smokers," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "Keeping tobacco out of the hands of children is one of the keys to preventing the unhealthy habit that too often causes heart disease and cancer later in life. All of us, including retailers, must remain committed to helping our youth make the healthy decision not to smoke."

The findings are based on reports submitted by states in response to Federal law established in 1992 restricting access to tobacco by youth under age 18. The law—known as the Synar Amendment—and its regulations for implementation require states and U.S. territories to enact and enforce youth tobacco access laws; conduct annual, random inspections of tobacco outlets; achieve negotiated, annual retailer violation targets; and attain a final goal of 20 percent or below for retailer noncompliance. The Amendment was named for its author, the late U.S. Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma.

In 2001, 38 states achieved the overall goal of a 20-percent violation rate, and 13 states and the District of Columbia achieved their negotiated target rates for 2001. Wisconsin was the only state that failed to meet its negotiated, annual violation rate target, and agreed to commit additional state funds totaling $3,012,615 to enforcement efforts in order to avoid stringent penalties in the law.

"States that successfully meet their Synar goals tend to share certain characteristics," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W. "Generally, these states employ a comprehensive strategy that combines vigorous enforcement efforts, political support from the state government, and a climate of active social norms that discourage youth tobacco use. Tobacco control programs in these states also tend to be well coordinated and include targeted merchant and community education, media advocacy, and use of community coalitions to mobilize support for restricting minors' access to tobacco."

For more information, visit Or, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at
P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). End of Article

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