Hawaii Tobacco Sales to Minors Below National Average

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD) survey results for illegal tobacco sales to minors show this year’s 6.1% rate in Hawai‘i falls below the 9.3% federal fiscal year 2010 national weighted average.

The annual survey is a joint effort between the DOH and the University of Hawai‘i to determine the extent of illegal sales of tobacco products to minors. The survey monitors the state’s compliance with the “Synar” (tobacco) regulations for the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

Of the four counties included in the 2011 statewide survey, the County of Kaua‘i had no sales, the County of Maui had a 3.0 percent rate, the County of Honolulu had a 5.7 percent sales rate and the County of Hawai‘i had a 11.9 percent rate. Due to the small sample size rates for individual counties are not considered statistically reliable. Hawaii law prohibits tobacco sales to persons under the age of 18 and merchants convicted of selling to minors face a mandatory fine of $500. In the Spring of 2011, teams made up of youth volunteers (ages 15-17) and adult observers visited a random sample of 264 stores in which the youth attempted to buy cigarettes to determine how well retailers were complying with the State tobacco laws. Sixteen stores (6.1 percent) sold to minors (ages 15-17). Sales to a minor occurred less than 0.9% of the time if clerks asked for ID.

In 1996, the state’s first survey results showed a noncompliance rate of 44.5 percent. After the implementation of law enforcement operations, this rate steadily dropped and was maintained below 10 percent with the exception of 2008. Over the past three years Hawai‘i has been able to reduce and maintain a lower rate. With stronger enforcement of tobacco laws being implemented, the aim is to eliminate teenage tobacco use.

However, with an increase in the variety of tobacco products, it is still important to educate retailers on training their staff to avoid selling tobacco to minors. The DOH Tobacco Prevention and Education Program has tools and training packets available at no cost to assist retailers.

For more information, go to http://hawaii.gov/health/healthy-lifestyles/tobacco/index.html

Background Information on Survey

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