Tobacco sales to minors doubles in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has doubled sales of tobacco to minors in the last four years.

An annual inspection of tobacco compliance measures in Oklahoma has determined tobacco sales to minors throughout the state has doubled in the last four years, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).

The annual inspection measures compliance on restricting the sale of tobacco products to minors. The tests are conducted throughout the state and the results are not tabulated by county, but as a state as a whole.

Higher percent totals mean more retailers sell tobacco products to under-cover minors during random checks through the agency’s partnership with the state Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission.

This year’s non-compliance rate of 14.1 percent is more than twice the 6.8 percent recorded only four years ago. The 6.8 percent non-compliance rate was also the lowest ever for the state.

ODMHSAS Commissioner Terri White said she is concerned that non-compliance is increasing and that some retailers seem unconcerned about illegally selling tobacco products to minors.

“Store owners who ignore compliance requirements are putting their own profits ahead of our children’s health,” she said. “Fortunately, the vast majority of retailers are abiding by the law and aren’t the ones putting tobacco into the hands of our youth. The fact that so many retailers didn’t sell these products to minors suggests there is no excuse for the others to continue breaking the law.”

States must maintain a non-compliance rate below 20 percent or face the risk of losing federal funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts, according to ODMHSAS.

White said the potential loss of federal substance abuse treatment funding would seriously impact already limited addiction treatment services.

“Significant budget cuts have severely limited the services we can provide,” she said. “Already, only about 20 percent of those needing substance abuse services receive the help they need.”

According to www.accessdata.fda.gov, only two locations in Stephens County have been warned or given a citation for failure to ID during on site compliance checks for sale of tobacco within the last two years. The two locations are located in Duncan and Velma.

According to a 2013 report from the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey, nine out of 10 smokers tried their first cigarette before age 18, and 22.7 percent of Oklahoma high school students are current tobacco users.

 Additional information related to the compliance checks is available on the ODMHSAS  

website at http://ok.gov/odmhsas/Prevention_/Prevention_Initiatives/Synar_Compliance/.

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