Baton Rouge – Teens in Louisiana continue to find it more difficult to purchase tobacco products than their peers in all but one other state.

According to statistics released yesterday by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only young people in Colorado have more difficultly purchasing tobacco products. In 2002, Colorado led the nation, with 5.4 percent of people under age 18 able to make an illegal tobacco purchase. Louisiana and Delaware tied for second at 5.7 percent. The national rate for these illegal sales by retailers is 14.1 percent. This is the fifth consecutive year that Louisiana ranks as one of the top three states.

Reducing Illegal Tobacco Sales
(Percentage of retail outlets surveyed selling tobacco products to minors.)

  2002 - 5.66%          1998 - 20%
  2001 - 8.5%            1997 - 39%
  2000 - 6.5%            1996 - 75%
  1999 - 6.68% 

SAMHSA stated the findings are based on reports submitted by states in response to a 1992 federal law that restricts access to tobacco by youth under age 18. The law, known as the Synar Amendment, requires states to enact and enforce youth tobacco access laws; conduct annual random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets; achieve annual retailer violation targets; and attain a final goal of 20 percent or below for retailer non-compliance rate.

Louisiana achieved the 20 percent goal in 1998 and has continued to improve its efforts almost every year since.

David W. Hood, secretary of the Department of Health said Louisiana’s success can be traced to a partnership between DHH’s Office for Addictive Disorders, the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and the retailers who sell tobacco products.

“Our Office for Addictive Disorders has worked extensively with retailers to educate them about the law and to conduct informal compliance inspections,” he said. “The Alcohol and Tobacco Control Office supports us by sending in undercover agents to attempt illegal purchases, and penalizes those who are in violation of the law. Most importantly, the retailers have responded by being aggressive in identifying those who are underage and not making the sale."