The Tulsa Health Department’s Regional Prevention Coordinator program, in coordination with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, released the findings of the annual Synar inspections of tobacco outlets to measure compliance with laws restricting underage tobacco sales. The goal of Synar is to reduce and maintain Oklahoma’s number of successful illegal tobacco purchases by minors to less than 20 percent of attempted buys. Currently, Oklahoma’s Synar non-compliance rate is 7.8%.
According to the Synar Amendment to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, all states are required to conduct annual, random, unannounced inspections of over-the-counter tobacco outlets and vending machines to ensure compliance with the law. This year there were 41 Synar checks conducted in Tulsa County.
The Tulsa Health Department’s Regional Prevention Coordinator program works to reduce the Synar non-compliance rate by conducting Reward Reminder Visits (RRV) throughout the year leading up to the Synar checks. RRVs target retailers within Tulsa County to assess whether they will sell tobacco products to persons under the age of 18.
During these visits, trained underage youth attempt to purchase tobacco products. If the retailer sells to a minor, RPC staff will present the retailer with educational materials explaining the laws and penalties associated with selling to a minor. The goals of the quarterly RRVs are to eliminate the issuance of citations by seeking to assist communities in monitoring compliance and identify retailers in need of additional assistance. If clerks refuse to sell tobacco or if the vending machines cannot be accessed by the teens, clerks earn recognition and incentives for doing the right thing. Reminders are given out for failing to check for age or allowing illegal sales. In the first three quarters of this fiscal year, 183 tobacco retailer establishments were visited during RRVs. Of those retail establishments visited only one sold tobacco to a minor, resulting in a compliance rate of 99.
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.
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 to focus 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 and tobacco compliance operations.
Click here for more information regarding the Synar checks in Tulsa County or the Regional Prevention Coordinator (RPC) program at the Tulsa Health Department.