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Kentucky in compliance with federal anti-teen smoking mandate


FRANKFORT, Ky. (October 3, 2012) — Kentucky’s compliance with a federal law requiring states to both pass laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to persons under age 18 and enforce those laws has been among the nation’s best in recent years.

That was the word on Oct. 3 to the legislative Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee from Steve Cambron, the state’s federal Synar Amendment coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities. The federal amendment, passed in 1992, mandates that states enact and enforce laws aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco products.

In 2009, the state’s rate—also known as its “Synar rate”— for noncompliance with the mandate was 3.5 percent, the third lowest rate in the nation, Cambron said. Since 2004, Kentucky’s noncompliance rate has been around 5.6 percent, meaning around 5.6 percent of stores inspected under the amendment’s protocols sold tobacco products to underage youth, he said.

Noncompliance must not exceed 20 percent under the mandate, according to Cambron. Exceeding a noncompliance rate of 20 percent could result in a state losing up to 40 percent of its federal block grant funding, he said.

Even though its Synar rate is relatively low nationally, Cambron told the committee that Kentucky does have the highest youth smoking rate in the country.

“We know that these youth are getting cigarettes from somewhere. We know that a large part of that probably comes from social access, and there probably still are stores that unwittingly sell to minors, probably because the clerks are not properly trained,” Cambron said.

Results from a school survey, called the Kentucky Incentive for Prevention Survey, last administered by the state in 2010 among students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 show that obtaining cigarettes as an underage youth in Kentucky is not really difficult. The results were gleaned from student responses to a survey question that asked “How easy would it be for you to get some cigarettes?”

“What those youth tell us is that for some of those grades, it’s still quite easy (to obtain cigarettes),” Cambron said.

Aside from the Synar program, the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) inspects for tobacco sales to underage youth. For those inspections, an investigative aide of age 16 or 17 will go into a store and attempt to purchase tobacco products, according to the ABC’s Josh Crain. If he or she is successful, a citation is issued against the seller.

Crain said 3,280 state inspections were conducted last year, resulting in 120 violations. Federal inspections are conducted separately by the Food and Drug Administration.

One committee member said some of the investigative aides’ ages are difficult to gauge by their looks. Crain said the state’s protocol is to use aides who look age-appropriate. If they don’t, he said steps are taken to remove them from the program.

“The intent of the program is to check for compliance. That’s our goal,” he said.

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