Categorized | Health

Hawaii tobacco sales to minors below national average


The state Department of Health (DOH) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD) survey results for illegal tobacco sales to minors show this year’s 6.1 percent rate in Hawaii falls below the 9.3 percent federal fiscal year 2010 national weighted average.

The annual survey is a joint effort between the DOH and the University of Hawaii to determine the extent of illegal sales of tobacco products to minors. The survey monitors the state’s compliance with the “Synar” (tobacco) regulations for the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

In 1996, the state’s first survey results showed a noncompliance rate of 44.5 percent. After the implementation of law enforcement operations, this rate steadily dropped and was maintained below 10 percent with the exception of 2008.

Over the past three years Hawaii has been able to reduce and maintain a lower rate. With stronger enforcement of tobacco laws being implemented, the aim is to eliminate teenage tobacco use.

However, with an increase in the variety of tobacco products, it is still important to educate retailers on training their staff to avoid selling tobacco to minors. The DOH Tobacco Prevention and Education Program has tools and training packets available at no cost to assist retailers.

Of the four counties included in the 2011 statewide survey, the County of Kauai had no sales, the County of Maui had a 3.0 percent rate, the County of Honolulu had a 5.7 percent sales rate and the County of Hawaii had a 11.9 percent rate. Due to the small sample size rates for individual counties are not considered statistically reliable.

Hawaii law prohibits tobacco sales to persons under the age of 18 and merchants convicted of selling to minors face a mandatory fine of $500.

In spring 2011, teams made up of youth volunteers (ages 15-17) and adult observers visited a random sample of 264 stores in which the youth attempted to buy cigarettes to determine how well retailers were complying with the State tobacco laws.

Sixteen stores (6.1 percent) sold to minors (ages 15-17). Sales to a minor occurred less than 0.9% of the time if clerks asked for ID.

A Federal law known as the “1992 Synar Amendment” requires all 50 states to enact and enforce laws that prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to youth under age 18.

States are also required to annually conduct random, unannounced inspections and document a rate of tobacco sales to minors of no more than 20 percent or be subject to a penalty of 40 percent of their Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding.

On June 22, 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) was signed into law, granting authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products. Starting in Sept. 22, 2009, the FDA put into effect a ban on cigarettes containing certain characterizing flavors.

According to the act, a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke.

Any company who continues to make, ship or sell such products may be subject to FDA enforcement actions.

On June 22, 2010, under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA issued the new rule, Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents, which restricts the sale, distribution, and promotion of these products to make them less accessible and less attractive to kids.

Below is a brief summary of some of the regulations that are in effect.

* Bans sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to anyone under age 18. (If the minimum age in your state is more than 18, you must comply with the state age requirement).

* Retailers must examine a photographic identification bearing the person’s birth date to verify that any person purchasing cigarettes or smokeless tobacco is at least 18 years old. Verification is not required for purchasers who are over the age of 26.

• Forbids tobacco brand-name sponsorship of any “athletic, musical, or other social or cultural event, or any team or entry in those events.”

* Bans sale of cigarette packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes.

* Bans sale of cigarettes via vending machines or self-service displays “except in very limited situations.”

• Prohibits free samples of cigarettes and limits samples of smokeless tobacco.

• Forbids gifts in exchange for buying tobacco products.

• Allows only words — and no music or sound effects — in audio ads for tobacco products.

* Bans the sale or distribution of gear, such as hats and T-shirts, with tobacco brands or logos.

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