Dec. 10 2003
Washington, DC — Data released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that states are doing a better job of complying with a 1992 federal law, known as the Synar Amendment, requiring the states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting tobacco sales to children. According to the report, the national retailer violation rate has dropped to 14.1 percent in 2002, down from 16.3 percent in 2001.
The data is good news and reflects a reduction in tobacco sales to kids as a result of better state enforcement of youth access laws.
However, much more needs to be done at the state and federal level to prevent kids from smoking. As with most areas of tobacco prevention, we know what will work to reduce illegal sales of tobacco to kids. Youth access laws are a component of a comprehensive tobacco prevention program. Effective enforcement of such laws requires frequent, random and unannounced compliance checks using 16 and 17 year-olds, combined with stiff penalties for retailers who violate the law.
Also, Congress needs to pass legislation that protects the public health by granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) effective authority to regulate tobacco products so a single, meaningful standard applies to all states to ensure that tobacco sales to children go down.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. Every day, more than 4,000 kids try their first cigarette; another 2,000 kids become daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.