Illegal tobacco sales to minors in Hawaii drops to lowest rate ever

Published: Dec. 10, 2012 at 1:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii State Department of Health has determined this year's annual statewide survey results for illegal tobacco sales to minors is 4.3 percent, the lowest rate for Hawaii since the first survey was conducted in 1996. Last year's rate was 6.1 percent.

The annual survey is a joint effort between the Hawaii State Department of Health Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division and the University of Hawaii.

"The declining rate for illegal tobacco sales to minors shows the department's efforts to educate store owners and retail clerks are working," said Health Director Loretta Fuddy. "However, now more than ever, with an increasing variety of tobacco products becoming available, we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting our youth."

The survey monitors the state's compliance with the "Synar" (tobacco) regulations for the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. To continue to qualify for Block Grant funds, every state must enact and enforce laws that prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to youth under the age of 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.

In the Spring of 2012, teams made up of youth volunteers (ages 15-17) and adult observers visited a random sample of 209 stores statewide in which the youth attempted to buy cigarettes to determine how well retailers were complying with state tobacco laws. Nine stores (4.3 percent) sold to minors (ages 15-17). Sales to a minor occurred less than 1.1 percent of the time if clerks asked for identification. Of the four counties included in the 2012 statewide survey, the County of Kauai and the County of Maui had no sales, the County of Honolulu had six sales (4.7 percent sales rate), and the County of Hawaii had three sales (8.1 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.

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