States Meet Synar Amendment to Reduce Underage Tobacco Sales

The national average of underage tobacco sales in 2012 was about 9 percent according to a U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey. Studying and targeting youth is important because most smokers start when they are young. Nearly 88 percent of smokers first started when they were younger than 18 years old and 99 percent first started smoking by age 26.

The Synar Amendment in the 1992 Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act targets the availability of tobacco to youth. States must pass laws to curb and prohibit selling tobacco to underage people.

States must perform random audits and inspections to test if tobacco merchants are abiding by the laws. All findings go to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. States that do not meet the requirement might have to face a 40 percent funding reduction from their Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant which comes from the federal government. In 2012 all states were compliant with the Synar Amendment.

The SAMHSA survey shows that while the national average of selling tobacco to individuals under 18 years old is fairly low, state noncompliance rates vary. In 2012, Maine had the lowest noncompliance rate of 1.8 percent. The highest noncompliance rate was 17.9 percent in Oregon.