Health and Family Services Cabinet
Fewer Kentucky Vendors Are Selling Tobacco Products to Minors
Survey Reveals Highest Compliance Rates to Date
Kentucky vendors have reached record-level compliance with a state law preventing tobacco sales to minors, according to a recently released survey from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).
The 2009 Annual Synar Buying Survey of retail tobacco outlets showed that 96.5 percent of retailers complied with the law barring tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 18. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) conducted the survey during the summer to measure the rate of illegal sales of tobacco to Kentucky youth. The survey was completed in cooperation with the Division of Behavioral Health in the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (BHDID), part of CHFS.
“Reducing the prevalence of tobacco sales to minors is a crucial piece of our work to prevent youth smoking and tobacco use,” said CHFS 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 – which is the mission of our substance abuse program, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC), the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).”
In addition to vendor compliance checks, Kentucky is engaged in numerous efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking. Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced a partnership with the Legacy Foundation to promote the “Become an Ex” campaign – a mass marketing campaign to encourage people to stop smoking – across the state. Similarly, Kentucky legislators voted during the 2009 legislative session to increase the state excise tax on cigarettes by 30 cents, bringing the state tax to 60 cents per pack. The state tax increase took effect April 1.
“We believe that vendor compliance with tobacco sales law, public education and the increase on the tobacco excise tax all have an effect on the public’s decision to use tobacco products,” said Irene Centers, coordinator of the DPH tobacco prevention and cessation program. Kentucky’s Synar rate remained around 94 percent from 2003 until last year when it increased to 95.3 percent. This year’s 96.5 percent is a sharp increase from a low of 80.3 percent in 1999.
Tony Dehner, ABC commissioner, emphasized the importance of cooperation in the effort to combat youth access to tobacco products.
“The ABC considers our role in the annual survey extremely important in the effort to reduce youth access to tobacco,” said Dehner. “Through the checks we conduct, retailers get the message that Kentucky is serious about preventing sales to minors, and many make sure to educate their staff on verifying the customer’s age. The prevention of underage tobacco sales helps to create safer and healthier communities.”
“Kentucky once again has a low rate of non-compliance, which is an important step for us as we continue to reduce youth access to tobacco,” said Van Ingram, ODCP executive director. “Through the efforts of the Regional Prevention Centers, the Division of Behavioral Health, ODCP and ABC, the health of young Kentuckians is being improved by reducing the illegal use of tobacco products.”
Federal law authorizes the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant and requires states to enact and enforce laws designed to reduce the availability of tobacco products to people younger than 18. The state must conduct the Annual Buying Survey using a scientific random sample study protocol approved by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and must demonstrate that its non-compliance rate does not exceed the target of 20 percent for illegal tobacco sales to minors. 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 prevention efforts and resources. For more information about this program and other substance abuse prevention or treatment programs, call Johnnie Woods at (502) 564-4456.