Making it Tough for Minors to Smoke

Tobacco sales to minors dropped significantly due to heightened regulations

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Two decades ago, Congress decided to crack down on illegal tobacco sales to minors. The 2011 report showed that federal and state efforts have really paid off.

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed a decline in underage tobacco sales in the United States.

Since 88 percent of smokers start before the age of 18, this decline should result in far fewer adult smokers.

"Never allow a minor access to tobacco products!"

In 1992, Congress passed the Synar Amendment, which was designed to reduce underage access to tobacco products.

The Synar Amendment is sponsored by SAMHSA. The 2011 report on tobacco sales to youth showed only 8.5 percent in illegal sales.

Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA administrator, said, “As the recent Surgeon General’s Report on Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults notes, smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death.”

“We must pursue every opportunity to prevent kids and young adults of today from becoming life-long adult smokers of tomorrow.”

“The success of the Synar program is a testament to how preventing underage youth from gaining illegal access to tobacco products can have a tremendous impact.”

All 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have been in compliance with the Synar Amendment for the last six years.

Retail sales to minors were under 10 percent in 34 states (including D.C.) and under 5 percent in 12 states. This is an improvement over the 9 percent reported in 2010.

This is a considerable change to the 73 percent of retailers in a particular state selling to minors 15 years ago. 

The report said 37 percent of smokers start before the age of 14, 88 percent before the age of 18 and 99 percent before the age of 26.  

This study was made available on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website in August.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 9, 2012
Last Updated:
May 7, 2013