State Laws Do Little to Curb Teen Cigarette Use
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite a nearly decade-old law encouraging states to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors, many teens have easy access to tobacco, a new study concludes.
According to Dr. Joseph R. DiFranza of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, the federal government has failed to enforce the Synar Amendment enacted in 1992. The amendment requires that states receiving Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites) (DHHS) grants enact and enforce a law that prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors. The federal government can withhold money to states that do not enforce these laws.
But in 1998, 30 states reported no progress in reducing the number of merchants who continue to sell cigarettes to minors, while 16 states reported an increase in violations over the previous year.
``As a whole, there was no significant national progress toward reducing the availability of tobacco to youths,'' DiFranza writes in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The study also found that while all states had laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, many states do not enforce these laws. Montana store-owners cannot be penalized until their fifth violation within 3 years, for instance, and three states have laws that do not include penalties for violators, according to the report.
DiFranza blames the lack of progress in curbing teen smoking on the federal government, which does not enforce state laws.
``Like school systems that graduate students who cannot read, DHHS continues to allow many states to get by, year after year, without taking the measures that are necessary to implement effective enforcement of their laws,'' he concludes.
States reporting an increase in illegal cigarette sales to minors over the previous year included Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming, among others.
However, other states, including Florida, Maine, Vermont and Texas, reported violation rates of less than 10%.
SOURCE: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2001;155:572-578.