SAMHSA Cites Synar for Reductions in Illegal Cigarette Sales

Report leaves retailers out of success equation for curbing tobacco sales to minors

WASHINGTON -- A new report on illegal tobacco sales to minors said that all the states and the District of Columbia have continued to meet their goals of curtailing sales of tobacco to underage youth (those under 18). The report by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 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.

SAMHSA attributes the statistic to the success of the 1992 Synar Amendment--introduced by the late Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma and enacted as part of the federal Public Health Service Act--which 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 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," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

The agency, however, does not directly cite the retailers themselves or the effectiveness of retailer carding programs as reasons for the decline in illegal sales to minors.

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; 12 of the 51 states achieved a retailer violation rate below 5%, up from nine states in fiscal year 2010; and 34 states achieved a retailer violation rate below 10%, according to the report.

"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%," said the report.

Click here to view the full SAMHSA report.