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Minnesota achieves highest compliance rate for youth tobacco sales

Minnesota last year achieved a 99 percent compliance rate, its highest ever, with state and federal laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 years old.

"With tobacco use being the leading cause of death and disease in the United States, it is vitally important that Minnesota retailers are in strict compliance with laws governing tobacco sales to people when they are young, which is often when the habit of smoking begins," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. "Curtailing these illegal sales helps to promote healthier kids and healthier communities."

Under the federal Synar amendment, states are required to conduct annual undercover inspections of its licensed tobacco retailers to check for violations of laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors. A compliance rate of 80 percent or higher is required for states to receive the federal substance abuse and treatment block grant award. The Minnesota Department of Human Services is the recipient of the block grant, which amounted to more than $24 million in federal fiscal year 2012. The department is also responsible for administering the tobacco sale inspections.

Minnesota's compliance rate for 2012 is the highest it has been since the Synar Amendment, named for the sponsoring congressman, was enacted in 1992. Minnesota's compliance rated for 2010 and 2011 were 95.9 percent and 97.6 percent, respectively. Minnesota achieved a 69.8 percent compliance rate in 1996, the first year the Synar Amendment went into effect.

Prevention and cessation of tobacco use is the focus of the first day, May 12, of National Prevention Week, which is endorsed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Other themes for the week are prevention of: underage drinking, prescription drug abuse and illicit drug use, alcohol abuse and suicide. The week concludes Friday with a focus on promotion of mental, emotional and behavioral well-being. Gov. Mark Dayton has issued a proclamation (PDF) recognizing May 12-18 as Prevention Week in Minnesota.