State retailers help reduce tobacco sales to S.D. adolescents

State retailers help reduce tobacco sales to S.D. adolescents A recent report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that the tobacco "buy rate" for adolescents under the age of 18 in South Dakota was the lowest in the nation for federal fiscal year 2002.

When asked why South Dakota has done so well, Gib Sudbeck, director of the division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, credits the state's retailers for the success of the program. He said that the S.D. Retailers Association was on board and supportive of reducing the sales of tobacco products to minors from the beginning. "The retailers instituted a very effective training program for store owners, supervisors, and clerks. This also helped in raising communities' awareness of the problem. The retailers worked very hard to make it successful," Sudbeck said.

South Dakota began conducting compliance surveys of retailers in 1996. At that time, 86 percent of underage youth in South Dakota were successful in purchasing tobacco products while the national rate was 40 percent. By 2002, the national rate dropped to 16 percent, with the rate in South Dakota being 4.5 percent. Mississippi had the second lowest rate at 5.7 percent and Maine the third lowest at 6.7 percent for federal fiscal year 2002.

The findings are based on reports submitted by states in response to federal law established in 1992 restricting access to tobacco by youth under age 18. The law, known as the Synar Amendment, and its implementing regulations require states and U.S. territories to enact and enforce youth tobacco access laws; conduct annual random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets; achieve negotiated annual retailer violation targets; and attain a final goal of 20 percent or below for retailer non-compliance. This means that each time a youth under the age of 18 attempts to buy tobacco products, 8 out of 10 tries would result in a failed attempt to buy.

"States that successfully meet their Synar goals tend to share certain characteristics," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie. "Generally, these states employ a comprehensive strategy that combines vigorous enforcement efforts, political support from the state government, and a climate of active social norms that discourage youth tobacco use. Tobacco control programs in these states also tend to be well coordinated and include targeted merchant and community education, media advocacy, and use of community coalitions to mobilize support for restricting minors' access to tobacco."

SAMHSA, a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead federal agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services in the United States. Information on SAMHSA's programs is available on the Internet at www.samhsa.gov.

For more information regarding the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse visit on line at www.state.sd.us/dhs/ADA or call toll free at: 1 (800) 265-9684.

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