DBHDD Synar Program key in reducing youth access to tobacco products

March 8, 2010

ATLANTA (GA) - Undercover inspections reveal more than 90 percent of Georgia retailers refused to sell tobacco to minors, making Georgia one of the best states for compliance with federal law according to information released in the Annual Synar Report (ASR). The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) found that Georgia retailers, with a violation rate of just 9.5 percent, are 10.5 percentage points below the national limit of 20 percent. Federal law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors.

“Work under the Synar regulation is an important component of Georgia’s substance abuse prevention efforts,” said Cassandra Price, M.B.A., director of DBHDD’s Division of Addictive Diseases. “Vigilant retailers play a key role in keeping tobacco products out of the hands of minors, which curtails nicotine addiction and major health risks.”

All states must monitor retailers that are accessible to youth and must maintain a statewide violation rate less than 20 percent or face possible reduction of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds. Georgia has remained well under the mandate since the Office of Prevention Services Program assumed responsibility for Synar in 2006.

“We are consistently seeking to assure that Georgia remains in compliance with this federal mandate, not only because it is the law, but because it promotes the health of our youth,” said Brenda J.D. Rowe, PhD, director of DBHDD’s Office of Prevention Services and Programs

Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse and Prevention (CSAP) oversees implementation of the Synar Amendment, which requires states to establish and enforce laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to youth under the age of 18. CSAP requires each state to conduct annual random, unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with the law and to submit an Annual Synar Report detailing the State's activities in enforcing their law.

The Georgia DOR provides enforcement of OCGA 16-12-170 through OCGA 16-12-176 which prohibits the sale, distribution to or possession of tobacco products by minors, including but not limited to issuing administrative citations, pursuing criminal prosecutions, and conducting inspections where tobacco products are sold or distributed. Penalties for retail outlets found to be selling tobacco products to minors begin at $300 and go up depending on the number of times an outlet is found to be selling tobacco products to youth under the age of 18.

For more information about the Synar program please visit http://www.samhsa.gov/synar; to view or download a copy of the ASR and for more information about prevention services in Georgia please visit http://dbhdd.georgia.gov.

Contact Information: 
Kristie N. Swink (knswink@dhr.state.ga.us)