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Fewer Kentucky Vendors Selling Tobacco To Minors

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Kentucky vendors are doing a better job than ever in making sure tobacco products aren't falling into the hands of minors, according to a recently released survey from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).

This year's Annual Synar Buying Survey of retail tobacco outlets revealed that more than 95 percent of retailers complied with the law barring tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 18. The Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) conducted the survey last summer to determine illegal sales of tobacco to Kentucky youth. The survey was completed in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Department for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addiction Services (MHDDAS).

"This year's survey showed a remarkable rate of compliance among Kentucky vendors," said Steve Nunn, acting commissioner of MHDDAS. "This program plays an important role in reducing smoking rates and tobacco use, particularly among young people. This is imperative to our tobacco prevention efforts and, in turn, the future health status of our young Kentuckians."

At 4.7 percent, the 2008 Synar non-compliance rate is at the lowest rate since Kentucky began tracking sales of tobacco to youth younger than 18. The rate has remained around 5 percent for the past four years, but has been decreasing for several years. The highest rate recorded is 19.7 percent in 1999.

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Randy Fawns, deputy commissioner of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), thanked the Public Protection Cabinet, ABC investigators and support personnel for continuing to effectively combat youth access to tobacco products in Kentucky.

"Our investigators conduct compliance checks at approximately 300 retail locations each month. These efforts, in addition to the Synar Survey checks, result in raising the retailer's awareness that he or she may be selling to one of our investigative aides when selling to a minor," said Fawns. "There is no doubt that the high rate of compliance is greatly influenced by these consistent enforcement programs."

"Kentucky's new low non-compliance rate shows that we have made great strides in reducing youth access to tobacco products," said Van Ingram, acting executive director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP). "Through the efforts of the Regional Prevention Centers, the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, 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 Mental Health and Substance Abuse to better target prevention efforts and resources.