Feb. 26 1997
Washington, DC - State officials charged with enforcing anti-tobacco efforts today said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule requiring age verification for tobacco sales provides a critical first step in combating youth tobacco use. But more must be done, according to participants in a CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS press conference. The first phase of the FDA rule designed to curb tobacco companies from marketing and selling their products to children will go into effect Friday. This phase will put in place the age verification provision -- establishing 18 as the minimum age to purchase tobacco, and requiring retailers to check the photo identification of young purchasers who appear to be under 27 years of age. "This photo ID provision is the first meaningful national step in a comprehensive initiative to reduce teenage tobacco consumption by 50 percent in seven years," said William D. Novelli, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. "Through effective enforcement of the minimum purchase age, it will become far more difficult for kids to get their hands on tobacco products." The key changes that will be brought about by the FDA rule include: a toughened federal law with enforcement and compliance checks; fines against violators; application of the penalties to retailers, not to store clerks; a national standard for enforcing the 18 year old purchase age -- filling in the gaps created by varying state laws; and increased federal funding for state enforcement. Participating in the telephone press conference were state officials from Florida and Indiana. Each will be responsible for enforcing the first phase of the FDA rule in their respective states. Indiana Attorney General Jeffrey A. Modisett said, "Indiana has one of the highest youth smoking rates in the country. Retail education combined with tough enforcement measures have proven to reduce youth smoking in other states. The FDA rule will bolster our enforcement efforts to reduce the access and appeal of tobacco products to minors." Richard Boyd, Florida’s director of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Enforcement said, "When it comes to reducing the access of tobacco products to kids, we want to be as tough as we can be. "The phase of the FDA rule that takes effect this week is an important step forward in reducing the access of tobacco to minors," Boyd continued. "But this is only the first round in a long fight. In the coming months the even more difficult and badly needed FDA effort to reduce the appeal of these products to children will take center stage." Retailer education, combined with tough enforcement, has been proven to decrease youth access to tobacco. Both Indiana and Florida are submitting applications for state compliance programs funding in the first round of FDA contracts. Program funding is key to increasing compliance on a state level. "The real battle to protect our children from tobacco lies ahead," Novelli said. "Making it more difficult to buy tobacco won’t fully solve our problems until we reduce the appeal of these products to teenagers. It is now essential that we move forward with the rest of the FDA rule, currently under legal attack by the tobacco industry, and stop the tobacco companies from marketing their products directly to kids." Other elements of the FDA rule, aimed at limiting the appeal of tobacco to minors, take effect on August 28 of this year. These include: a ban on outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds; restrictions in print advertising in publications with significant youth readership (under 18); a prohibition of the sale or giveaway of tobacco products; and a restriction on cigarette vending machines in places where minors are allowed, among others. A ban on brand sponsorship of events takes effect a year later. Smoking among teens has increased to its highest level in 17 years. Seventy-seven percent of 8th graders and 91 percent of 10th graders say that cigarettes are "very easy" or "fairly easy" for them to get, according to a December, 1996, University of Michigan study. A 1996 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Report showed that more than 75 percent of high school students are not asked to show proof of age when they purchase cigarettes. Purchases in stores -- convenience stores, supermarkets or gas stations -- are the most common source of cigarettes for minors. The CDC also revealed In 1996 that the percentage of minors who reported buying their own cigarettes increased from 58 to 62 percent between 1989 and 1993. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids.