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Research Review

Partnership Reduces Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors to an All-Time Low

A new report on the Synar Amendment program—a federal and state partnership aimed at ending illegal tobacco sales to minors—shows that all the states and the District of Columbia have continued to meet their goals of curtailing sales of tobacco to underage youths. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which sponsors the Synar program, shows that the average national retailer violation rate of tobacco sales is down to 8.5%, the lowest level in the history of the program.

The Synar Amendment (introduced by the late Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma and enacted as Section 1926 of the federal Public Health Service Act) requires states and U.S. jurisdictions to have laws and enforcement programs for prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco to persons under 18. The program is part of SAMHSA strategic initiative on preventing substance abuse and mental illness.

Under the regulation implementing the Synar Amendment, states and U.S. 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.

For the sixth year in a row, no state was found out of compliance with the Synar regulation, in fact: 12 of the 51 states achieved a retailer violation rate below 5%, up from 9 states in fiscal year 2010, and 34 states achieved a retailer violation rate below 10%.

These rates continue to stand in sharp contrast with the situation 15 years ago at the Synar program’s inception when the highest reported state retailer violation rate was 72.7%.

— Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration