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Tobacco sales to minors increase

January 14, 2002

Bismarck, N.D. - The latest statewide tobacco compliance survey conducted by the North Dakota Department of Human Services showed an increase in the percentage of retailers who illegally sell tobacco to minors. From June through August 2001, 16 percent of the 338 retailers surveyed sold tobacco to a minor. This compares to 11 percent one year ago.

Carol K. Olson, executive director of the department of human services, is concerned about the increase. "We need to improve the level of compliance in North Dakota so that we can reduce youth access to tobacco, as well as, assure that important substance abuse prevention and treatment services aren't jeopardized," Olson said.

If the state's noncompliance rate increases to 20% or more, the federal government could cut the state's $4.3 million federal substance abuse prevention and treatment grant by up to 40 percent, Olson said. That could impact substance abuse treatment services for low-income North Dakotans, as well as funding for the Prevention Resource Center and several regional prevention coordinators.

Currently 80 percent of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant is used for public treatment services provided by the department's eight regional human service centers. During state fiscal year 2001, the centers served 6,162 people who requested substance abuse treatment.

The North Dakota Department of Health, which funds local tobacco use prevention programs in the state's 12 largest cities, four Indian reservations and one service area is also concerned with the survey results. State Health Officer Dr. Terry Dwelle said that local community involvement is the key to increasing the compliance rate. Dwelle noted that in communities with tobacco prevention programs and ordinances licensing retailers, only 8 percent of retailers sold to minors, compared to 21 percent elsewhere in the state.

"Our investment in local tobacco use prevention continues to show improved retailer compliance in communities with ordinances," Dwelle said. "With the community health grant funds available to schools and communities statewide, we have the opportunity to reduce tobacco sales to minors to less than 8 percent in all communities. When we reach and maintain this kind of compliance, we hopefully will see a continued drop in youth smoking."

The state department of human services conducts a random sample survey of retailers annually, as outlined by the federal Synar Amendment. Synar requires states to reduce the sale of tobacco to minors or risk large cuts in federal substance abuse funds.

Contacts:

Survey information: Vanessa Handte, Treatment Services Coordinator, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-8982 or sohanv@nd.gov
Local tobacco use prevention programs: Kathleen Mangskau, Administrator, Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, North Dakota Department of Health, (701) 328-2367 or kmangska@nd.gov

 

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