Health and Family Services Cabinet
Annual Study Shows Few Vendors Sell Tobacco to Minors
Compliance with Law Prohibiting Sales Remains High
Kentucky tobacco prevention, cessation and enforcement efforts continue to make headway in restricting the availability of tobacco products to underage youth, according to a recently released survey from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).
The 2010 Annual Synar Buying Survey of Kentucky’s retail tobacco outlets showed that 94.6 percent of retailers surveyed upheld Kentucky’s law banning the sale of tobacco products to youth under the age of 18. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control conducted the survey throughout the state during the summer to measure the rate of illegal sales of tobacco to Kentucky youth. The survey was conducted in cooperation with the Substance Abuse Prevention Branch of the Division of Behavioral Health in the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities.
“If access to tobacco products is restricted, fewer young people will use tobacco, reducing the number who become addicted,” said Department for Public Health Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “The results of this survey indicate we’re moving in the right direction. Fewer people are dependent on tobacco products because of the work of our substance abuse program, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Drug Control Policy.”
All states and territories must conduct the Annual Synar Buying Survey using a scientific random sample study protocol approved by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and must demonstrate that its tobacco vendor compliance meets or exceeds the federal minimum compliance rate of 80 percent. Kentucky’s rate of 94.6 percent ranks well above the 2009 national average of 89.1 percent (the national average rate for 2010 is not yet available). Kentucky’s Synar rate has remained around 94 percent since 2003.
Tony Dehner, commissioner for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, emphasized the importance of cooperation in the effort to effectively combat youth access to tobacco products in Kentucky.
“Our investigators do an excellent job in continuing to present a realistic expectation to the retailer that if a sale is made, it could be to a person acting on behalf of the agency,” Dehner said. “In addition to conducting the Synar Survey, we check approximately 300 retail locations each month for sales to underage people using investigative aides. One cannot help but think that the compliance rate is greatly influenced by these efforts.”
“Kentucky consistently has a low rate of non-compliance, which is an important component of reducing youth access to tobacco,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP). “We applaud the efforts of the Regional Prevention Centers, the Division of Behavioral Health, ABC, and our Kentucky retailers. The health of young Kentuckians is being improved by reducing the illegal use of tobacco products.”
The Synar Amendment, named after its creator Mike Synar, congressman from Oklahoma, requires states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals younger than 18 years old. States that fall below the 80 percent minimum compliance rate are subject to a penalty of 40 percent of their Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant funding.
The SAPT Block Grant, administered by CHFS, is the single largest funding stream in Kentucky supporting substance abuse prevention and treatment. Statistics from the annual buying survey allow the Division of Behavioral Health to better target tobacco prevention efforts and resources.