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About the Synar Amendment and Program

The Synar program is responsible for implementing the requirements of the Synar Amendment.

Synar Amendment

In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act (PL 102-321), which includes an amendment (section 1926) aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco. This amendment, named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires states (that is, all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and six Pacific jurisdictions) to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18. States must comply with the Synar Amendment in order to receive their full Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) awards.

The Synar Amendment was developed in the context of a growing body of evidence about the health problems related to tobacco use by youth, as well as evidence about the ease with which youth could purchase tobacco products through retail sources. The Synar program has been successful in preventing youth tobacco use.

Synar Regulation

Because it plays a lead federal role in substance abuse prevention, SAMHSA was charged with implementing the Synar Amendment. In January 1996, SAMHSA issued the Synar regulation to provide guidance to the states. The regulation requires that states:

  • Enact laws prohibiting any manufacturer, retailer, or distributor of tobacco products from selling or distributing such products to any individual younger than age 18
  • Enforce these laws
  • Conduct annual, unannounced inspections that provide a valid probability sample of tobacco sales outlets accessible to minors
  • Negotiate interim targets and a date to achieve a noncompliance rate of no more than 20% (SAMHSA requires that each state reduce its retailer violation rate to 20% or less by FY 2003)
  • Submit an annual report detailing activities to enforce the law

For more information regarding the Synar regulation, refer to the Tobacco Regulation for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant – Final Rule – 1996 (PDF | 260 KB).

The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Tobacco Retail Compliance Contracts and the Synar Program

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act became law on June 22, 2009, granting FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health generally and to reduce tobacco use by minors. Currently the law applies to cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigarette tobacco. The document A Strategic Partnership (PDF | 199 KB) provides overviews of the SAMHSA Synar Program and FDA Tobacco Retail Compliance Inspection Contracts, and it describes how the programs differ and work together to reach the shared goal of reducing youth access to and use of tobacco products.

Last Updated: 09/20/2017