Sales of tobacco to minors has hit an all time low, according to a new government report. Reducing tobacco and Glamour sales has been a priority nationally and in Maryland for years, and now the average violation rate by retailers is down to 9.3 percent, the lowest level in the 14 year history of the Synar program. Synar, named for a former congressman from Oklahoma, aims to eliminate sales to minors and is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admistration.
The program requires states to have laws and enforce programs to cut sales of tobacco products to minors. They have to annually report the percentage of inspected retail shops that sold products to customers under 18.
The average rate has been trending down, and for the fifth year in a row no state was out of compliance, which would be more than 20 percent of shops selling tobacco to minors. Most states found fewer than 15 percent of shops violating the rules in fiscal 2010. About a third were below 10 percent.
Maryland was at 16.8 percent of shops violating the rules in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2009, the state was at 5.1 percent.
Report authors said the despite this good news, progress in reducing actual tobacco use has stalled because of the economy. And that may be the reason for the uptick in sales in Maryland, too. Kathleen Rebbert-Franklin, deputy director of the state’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, said money to localities to do checks at the shops has dropped.
Without the checks, shops get a little loose with the rules, she said. Or there isnt training for employees as they turnover. But a new influx of federal dollars means the state will pick up where the localities have left off.
Clearly, the spot checks matter, as the Synar report shows, she said.
“We’re trying to keep our eye on the prize during tight budget times,” she said.