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Youth Cig Sales Hit New Low

Last year, just 8.5% of retailers sold tobacco products illegally to kids—that's almost 80% down since 1997.

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By Hunter R. Slaton

11/01/12

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The proportion of tobacco retailers making illegal sales to minors in the US fell last year to 8.5%, according to new research from SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). This is the lowest level since tracking of this data began in 1997, under provisions of the Synar Amendment Program. Enacted as part of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Synar requires US states and territories "to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under age 18"—and also "to conduct random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets." In 1997, 40.1% of retailers were found to sell tobacco to kids. After a sharp drop in 1998, to 25.4%, the numbers have declined steadily each year since. That's significant, because stopping kids from taking their first puff is one of the best ways of preventing adult smoking. Research has shown that, among adults who have ever been daily smokers, 88% report lighting up for the first time prior to turning 18. “The success of the Synar program is a testament to how preventing underage youth from gaining illegal access to tobacco products can have a tremendous impact,” says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. SAMHSA also provided state-by-state data for 2011, which showed that the state with the highest "retailer violation rate" is health-conscious Oregon, at 19.3%, while vice-friendly Nevada has the lowest, at just 1.1%.

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