Tobacco Sales to Youth: Lower Than Ever
States Encouraged To Integrate Tobacco Prevention Efforts
By Kristin Blank
In the 12th year that SAMHSA has monitored retailer tobacco sales to youth under age 18, 26 states achieved a retailer violation rate (RVR) below 10 percent, and all states and the District of Columbia fell below the required 20 percent rate.
“In addition, the national weighted average RVR for all 50 states and the District of Columbia was 9.9 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008,” said Frances M. Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).
“That rate is down from 40.1 percent in FY 1997,” said Susan Marsiglia Gray, M.P.H., National Synar Program Coordinator at CSAP. Findings were released in a report entitled FFY 2008 Annual Synar Reports: Youth Tobacco Sales.
Recently, SAMHSA hosted the 10th National Synar Workshop, which was focused on encouraging states and jurisdictions to integrate their Synar work into comprehensive tobacco control efforts. Workshop speakers included Ms. Harding, Ms. Marsiglia Gray, and Federal partners from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, as well as state Synar staff.
“Every state operates differently,” said Ms. Marsiglia Gray. “But many states house Synar work in the substance abuse prevention department and other tobacco prevention efforts in the department of health. Ideally, these two areas should work together.”
To put further emphasis on integration, CSAP co-located the Synar Workshop with the National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH), the premier national conference on tobacco control. CSAP supported two representatives from each state to attend the Synar Workshop and also supported one participant from each state to attend NCTOH.
Research shows that states that do more than rely on reducing retail sales to prevent youth tobacco use—including raising the excise tax, enacting clean indoor air policies, and creating media campaigns—have better results, Ms. Marsiglia Gray said.
The FY 2008 Synar report highlights best practices used in four states—California, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Texas. Their efforts include grassroots campaigns, comprehensive enforcement approaches, and state tobacco control programs that include prevention efforts to limit young people’s access to tobacco.
The Synar Amendment, named for late Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires states, the District of Columbia, and the eight U.S. jurisdictions to keep RVRs below 20 percent or risk losing 40 percent of their Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding.
At the workshop, Ms. Harding called for states to set even more rigorous standards. “CSAP recently set a new internal program goal to encourage all states to reduce the sales rate to less than 10 percent, which is in keeping with the initial intent of the Synar legislation—to reduce minors’ access to tobacco products,” she said.
According to Federal data, tobacco use remains the leading cause of death and disease in the United States, with more than 400,000 deaths annually attributed to smoking.
Read the FY 2008 Synar report.