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Illegal Tobacco Sales To Minors Threatens Children’s Health

TULSA, OK – [June 13, 2018] – Oklahoma tobacco retailers are increasingly failing to comply with state law regarding underage tobacco sales.  Last year, Oklahoma tobacco retailers posted an overall non-compliance rate of nearly 18 percent.  That’s troubling for local prevention professionals who say that the rising underage tobacco sales rate means that some retailers are placing profit ahead of young lives.  It also risks federal funding that supports vital Oklahoma health initiatives.  

In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act (PL 102-321), which includes an amendment (section 1926) aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco. This amendment, named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18.

“Spit tobacco, chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, chew or chaw: it doesn’t matter what you call it, smokeless tobacco contains more than 3 times the nicotine as cigarettes — making it even more addictive,” said Marianne Long, Tulsa Health Department’s regional prevention coordinator manager.

States are required to have a compliance rate of at least 80 percent (or a non-compliance rate of no more than 20 percent) regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors, and must demonstrate compliance in order to receive their full Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) award. 

“In 2012, the non-compliance rate was only 6.8 percent, the lowest ever recorded in Oklahoma, however that rate has steadily increased ever since,” said Long.  “While the majority of retailers are complying with the law, there are some in our community choosing to ignore it and in turn risking the health of our children. That is unacceptable. We urge parents to talk to their children about the dangers of using tobacco. In Oklahoma, 9 out of 10 adult smokers started by the time they were 18. In addition, manufacturers have created fruit flavored products to appeal to youth.”

Unannounced compliance checks occur annually in communities throughout Oklahoma.  Long reminds local retailers that it is important to be aware of the law and ensure that all staff are trained to prevent underage tobacco sales. 

Free community-based education is available to business owners and clerks regarding youth access to tobacco. Retailers may contact Long at 918-595-4274 or visit for more information.

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Tulsa Health Department
Since its establishment in 1950, the Tulsa Health Department serves as the primary public health agency to more than 600,000 Tulsa County residents, including 13 municipalities and four unincorporated areas. The agency is one of two autonomous local health departments in Oklahoma, with statutory public health jurisdiction throughout Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa. THD’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of all Tulsa County residents, in order to make Tulsa County the healthiest county in the country. THD was among the first health departments in the U.S. to receive national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. For more information, please visit

Regional Prevention Coordinators
Regional Prevention Coordinators is a grant funded program established to reduce the rates for underage drinking, adult binge drinking, and the non-medical use of painkillers within Tulsa County.  The work of RPC is concentrated on population-level change in Tulsa County by assisting communities in determining the substance abuse problems affecting their constituents and the most effective strategies to address these problems. RPC works with local coalitions and stakeholders to gather data, track trends, and provide training and technical assistance within the community.  Additionally, RPC provides support for town hall meetings and assists with local alcohol compliance operations. For more information regarding the RPC program at the Tulsa Health Department, please visit  
Synar Report
In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, which included the Synar Amendment aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco. This amendment requires states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under 18 years old. To determine compliance with the legislation, the amendment requires each state to conduct annual, random, unannounced inspections of retail tobacco outlets and to report the findings to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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