Enforcing No Tobacco Sales to Minors: Few States Do it Despite Federal Regulations

Joseph R. DiFranza, MD, and a team of investigators at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center evaluated the implementation of the "Synar Amendment," which required states seeking federal substance abuse block grants to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

The investigators conducted an independent audit of the 1997, 1998 and 1999 substance abuse block grant funding applications from 59 states and territories.

Key Conclusions

The investigators concluded that:

  • The states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) were violating the statutory requirements of the Synar Amendment, rendering it ineffective.
  • The absence of uniform and clear enforcement milestones in the final regulations created by DHHS had undermined the ability of the law to achieve its objective.
  • Few states have effective tobacco enforcement programs, and national surveys confirm that there has been no measurable reduction in the availability of tobacco to youth.