The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHA) published a report yesterday, indicating a significant decline in tobacco sales among minors in 2011. SAMHA is in-charge in implementing the Synar Amendment in the Alcohol, Drug Abuse Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, prohibiting the distribution and sale of tobacco products to individuals younger than 18 years old.

 

Tobacco woman smoking a cigarette

Based on the report, the retailer violation rate (RVR) of tobacco sales dropped from 40.1 percent in 1997, to 8.5 percent last year, the lowest since the implementation of the Synar program.  According the federal agency, guidelines in implementing the Synar Amendment were provided to states across the country. States were mandated to conduct random, unannounced inspections of over-the counter tobacco stores and vending machines, and to submit a detailed report on action taken in enforcing the law. Since the enactment of the law, the objective of the agency is to decrease the RVR from the average 40.1 percent in 1997, to 20 percent or less by 2003. Based on the report, the target was achieved 14.1 percent in 2003.

The SAMHA report also cited a study from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), cigarette smoking among students under the age of 18 declined from 34.8 percent in 1995 to 19.5 percent in 2009. The decline in cigarette smoking among minors was brought by different factors, including the negative advertisements featuring health problems associated with smoking, and higher prices in tobacco products due to tax increases, among others additions to the Synar program. The United States Surgeon General pushed for more initiatives in encouraging young Americans to stay away from smoking tobacco last March.

According to Susan Marsiglia Gray, head of the Synar program, there is a lower chance for kids to become smokers when they become adults, if they are prevented from smoking before turning 18.  She said, “By reducing retail access, we’re reducing one of the ways that kids can get introduced to tobacco and become smokers. Reducing retail access is an important part of a comprehensive tobacco control program, but it’s only one piece.” She emphasized the need for states to get involved in different initiatives in controlling tobacco, such as increasing tobacco taxes, enacting smoking bans and launching anti-smoking campaigns.

On the other hand, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that cigarette smoking among adults declined by 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2011, but the percentage of adults consuming other smoked tobacco products increased by 17 percent during the same period.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that a large increase in the consumption of cigars and loose tobacco products offset the decline in cigarette consumption last year. Adult cigarette consumption fell 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2011, but consumption of other forms of smoked tobacco products increased more than 17 percent in the same period, according to the report, which highlighted disparities in taxes and classifications for tobacco products as part of the reason for the increase

Tobacco manufacturers in the United States, such as Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE:MO) and Reynolds American, Inc.(NYSE:RAI), reported strong earnings during the second quarter of 2012, despite the different challenges confronting the tobacco industry including health concerns, tax hikes, smoking bans, negative advertisements on smoking, and strong competition.

Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE:MO) reported implementing different business strategies to maintain its profitability by introducing new products at lower prices. The company highlighted sales growth in discounted and smokeless tobacco products.