07 May Some Stores Illegally Sell Tobacco to Minors
Legal age limits for purchasing tobacco are one of many tools for combating nicotine addiction and reducing overall smoking rates. Legally, you must be 18 years of age or older in order to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products in the United States.
However, the effectiveness of this preventative measure relies on stores that sell tobacco products to be diligent about restricting their sales to adults. And unfortunately, yearly compliance checks across the nation regularly reveal that a significant percentage of tobacco retailers do allow minors to illegally purchase tobacco products.
The Synar Amendment to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act of 1992 restricted the sale and distribution of tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) oversees the continued enforcement of the Synar Amendment, and provides an annual report on the rates at which states and retailers are complying with this law.
The 2012 Synar Report
The annual Synar reports gather their information from regular compliance checks that each state is required to perform. These checks consist mostly of random, unannounced inspections, and most of these inspections involve the cooperation of youth inspectors. Youth inspectors are largely recruited through high schools and middle schools. They assist the inspection process by attempting to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products from stores and reporting their success and failures. This allows states to get a better picture of stores’ practical compliance instead of just their compliance policies.
In all, the 2012 Synar Report found that retailers across the country violated tobacco sales laws 9.1 percent of the time. Some states reported much higher rates of violation, including the state of Washington where retailers were found to sell tobacco products to minors 15 percent of the time. The highest reported violation rate was 17.9 percent in the state of Oregon. Other states reporting violation rates above 15 percent include Maryland (17.3 percent), Illinois (15.5 percent), and Tennessee (16.7 percent). Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, only nine reported violation rates of less than 5 percent.
The 9.1 percent rate of tobacco violations is up slightly from 2011, when stores nationwide were found in violation of minor sales and distribution laws 8.5 percent of the time. However, 8.5 percent was the lowest rate of violations since the reports began, and 9.1 percent is still the second lowest violation rate in history.
The slight increase in the last two years of the report does not represent a huge step backward, but it is still disappointing. SAMSHA’s ultimate goal is to eliminate all tobacco products sale to minors, and the organization does not want to see its progress slow, stagnate or reverse.
The Importance of Compliance
Retailers and their employees face penalties if they are not successful at limiting tobacco sales to minors. Individual clerks may be charged up to $100 if they are caught selling tobacco products to an underage customer. The retailers are subject to a stiffer penalty of $1,500 and may be prohibited from selling tobacco products for up to five years.
States are also subject to penalties if their overall violation rates become too high. Any state whose violation rate soars above 20 percent may lose the right to $13.5 million in federal funds for fighting drug and alcohol abuse and treating addiction.
A significant majority of the people who smoke regularly as adults began to smoke when they were still under the age of 18. This is a large part of the reason public health experts and legislators place such importance on reducing tobacco access for minors. During the years that the Synar legislation has been in place, the nationwide percentage of minors who report using cigarettes or other tobacco products has dropped from 34.8 percent to 18.1 percent.
In spite of this progress, most experts agree that 18.1 percent is still far too high, given all of the major health risks that are connected with tobacco use.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
Call our experts today.(855) 837-1334