Louisiana is still doing a good job at keeping cigarettes and other smoking products out of underage buyers’ hands, according to a 2005 report on tobacco sales to minors. Overall, the state had a noncompliance [selling tobacco to minors] rate of 7.3 percent for the past year. This is one of the lowest noncompliance rates in the nation.

“The Governor’s Health Care Reform Panel has identified decreased tobacco usage as a key step in improving public health in our state, and this report shows we are making great strides,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “One of the ways we can prevent young people from taking up this unhealthy habit is by reducing their access to cigarettes and other tobacco products. And, if we can prevent them from smoking now, they are less likely to take up the habit as adults.”

Following 1992 federal legislation, each state is responsible for developing a system to reduce youth access to tobacco through enforcement and unannounced inspections. In order to receive federal funds, states must have a noncompliance ranking no higher than 20 percent.

In a federal report released in 1997, Louisiana had a noncompliance rate of 71.16 percent, the highest of all states reporting data for that year. The state developed an initiative to reduce that rate to the federally mandated 20 percent. This is done through enforcement, statewide theme/logo promotion for the program, mass media and mobilizing state agencies and communities to become involved in the program.

“Through a partnership with the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control as well as our community partners, we have brought about changes to prevent underage buyers from purchasing tobacco products,” said Michael Duffy, assistant secretary for the Office for Addictive Disorders. “We have gone from being the state with the highest noncompliance rating to having one of the nation’s lowest violation rankings. This means health and behavioral changes can and do occur, with lasting and positive results.”

Duffy added that reducing access is one area in which the Office for Addictive Disorders is working toward health care reform by reducing tobacco usage.

“Our efforts to reduce underage access to tobacco, and a corresponding reduction in the smoking rate, can make Louisiana a healthier state.  In addition, we hope to reduce health care costs associated with tobacco use, and reduce the 6,400 smoking-related deaths that occur in our state each year,” Dr. Cerise said.

The state met its goal of 20 percent in 1999, then reduced the rate to below 10 percent the following year. The state has kept its noncompliance rate below 10 percent since 2000.

"We are now starting the 10th year of our interagency relationship with LDH on enforcement of the Tobacco Underage Access laws in Louisiana,” said Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter. “Together with the full support of the tobacco industries, retail and wholesale, we have taken this state from the bottom to the top. I only hope that these efforts continue to make Louisiana a better place to live and continue to save lives."