Michigan Increasing Tobacco Vendor Education, Majority of Vendors in Compliance; While Violations Increase, 82 Percent of Michigan Vendors Still Protect Youth from Tobacco

Contact: Jennifer Smith 517-241-2112

For Immediate Release: January 27, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (OROSC), is pleased to report that a statewide survey during 2014 indicated that 82 percent of retailers did not sell tobacco products to youth under age 18. This is the eighth consecutive year Michigan vendors have been in compliance with the federal minimum rate of 80 percent, though unfortunately, the survey shows that the retailer violation rate has increased to 18 percent over the last two years.

“While we are pleased that our vendors consistently meet the federal minimum, seeing more retailers violate our tobacco laws by selling to minors is concerning,” said Nick Lyon, director of the MDCH. “This survey provides an annual opportunity for us to refocus our efforts to educate vendors about proper tobacco retail procedures, and we plan to do just that.”

In 2012, Michigan’s retailer violation rate was 10.6 percent and now in 2014, 18 percent of retailers violated the law. By law, all states and territories must conduct the survey using a scientific random sample study protocol, approved by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and must demonstrate that its tobacco vendor compliance meets or exceeds the federal minimum compliance rate of 80 percent. States that fall below the 80 percent minimum compliance rate are subject to a penalty of 40 percent from their federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding. For Michigan, this could be up to $2.2 million.

In the winter of 2014, the statewide Annual Synar Buying Survey was conducted, with a sample of 552 from 9,870 establishments, to measure the rate of illegal sales of tobacco to Michigan youth. The survey involves visiting randomly selected outlets that sell tobacco products, either over-the-counter or through vending machines. A youth inspector will enter the outlet, attempt to make a tobacco purchase, and record the results. An adult chaperone drives the youth inspectors and oversees the purchase attempts.

In light of increased violations during 2014, Michigan will increase education outreach from a minimum number of contacts to cover 100 percent of all establishments known to sell tobacco. An online education opportunity, with a certificated test option will be available free of charge to businesses to reinforce education of their staff, avoid fines, and safeguard the public.

Deterring sales to youth is critical to reducing addictions, respiratory illnesses, some cancers, and ultimately deaths caused by smoking. If youth access to tobacco products is restricted, fewer will become addicted or harmed by the effects of smoking. For more information about the survey, visit http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,4612,7-132-2941_4871_4882---,00.html.

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