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Department of Behavioral Health Announces Results of Program to Curb Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) announces the latest results of its program to curb illegal tobacco sales to minors. Through its Synar efforts, over the summer, DBH conducted random, unannounced inspections of 364 retail outlets. The number of merchants obeying the law that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors showed a modest increase to 94.2 per cent from 92.9 per cent last year.

At the same time, the inspections identified 21 merchants who illegally sold tobacco products. These merchants received fines ranging from $100.00 to $150.00. The number of merchants cited represents 5.8 per cent of inspected outlets—well below the maximum 20 per cent that states and jurisdictions cannot exceed.

The annual inspections conducted with the Metropolitan Police Department are part of the District’s compliance with the federal Synar Program that requires states and federal jurisdictions to enact laws and enforcement programs prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. In addition to its enforcement efforts, the Department of Behavioral Health sponsors a tobacco merchant education program for more than 900 retailers licensed to sell tobacco products.

“Keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors is critical. We know that tobacco causes premature deaths so just one illegal sale to a minor is too many,” said Tanya A. Royster MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “Our inspections send a clear message that we are watching and the law will be enforced.”

In the District, the number of teens who report smoking is decreasing. The percentage of high school students who reported cigarette use within the past 30 days was 8.2 per cent—down from 13.8 percent in 2012—in a 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education. However, a disturbing finding in the survey is that the average age of initiation of tobacco use among middle school students is 10.2 years old.

DBH FFY 2018 Synar Report outlines the District’s progress and future plans to reduce youth tobacco access. Public comments on the Report should be sent no later than December 29, 2017, to Thomas Randolph, Synar Coordinator, at [email protected].

Surgeon General’s 2014 Report concludes that smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States despite significant progress in tobacco control and prevention. Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress Report projects that 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely from smoking-related illness if smoking persists at the current rate among young adults. In the District of Columbia, that represents about 7,000 children alive today whose lives will be shortened because of smoking.

show about 70 percent of all smokers want to quit. The District of Columbia Department of Health (DOH) offers support that can increase the chances of quitting and staying quit. Certified cessation counselors are available 24 hours a day to talk about a plan to quit or how to help a family member or friend quit. Call 1-800-Quit Now (1-800-784-8669). Nicotine replacement patches or lozenges are available to callers 18 years or older. DOH also sponsors community prevention and cessation efforts targeted toward youth.

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