National prevention week, May 10- May 16, 2020

May, 14, 2020

Did you know that nearly all tobacco usage begins before an individual’s 18th birthday? For decades, underage smoking and second hand smoke has been a major health threat among children and teens. According to Medline Plus, nearly 25 percent of high school students are smokers, and an additional 8 percent use smokeless tobacco products, such as snuff and dip. And with increase in vaping products and the lack of knowledge in teens about such products, the numbers which was slowly decreasing, has significantly increased. Today, 21% of all high school students use e-cigarettes.

In July 1992, Congress enacted the SYNAR Amendment, named after the Oklahoma Congressman Mike SYNAR. This act required states to implement and enforce legislative laws with the goal of barring tobacco products to those under 18. It also requires random, spontaneous checks be performed and an annual printed report produced explaining how the checks were performed and the outcomes of those visits. Last year, legislation was revised and raised the age limit to 21, based on data from the National Academy of Medicine stating this could save more than 223,000 lives and reduce lunch cancer deaths by 50,000 annually.

Louisiana has already seen a dramatic reduction of tobacco access to those under the age of 21. The rates of underage youth who purchased tobacco products from retailers has decreased by more than 25% and the rates of retailers in violation has decreased more than 32% overall. There has also been a major decrease in the number of underage smokers.

In 2015, the Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) and Goodwill Industries of North Louisiana (GINLA) formed a partnership to help address the issues with underage tobacco use in North Louisiana, as well as to perform the required compliance checks.

From July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, more than 400 stops at retailers, such as drug stores, supermarkets, gas stations and franchise discount stores, were attempted or made in the 12 parishes of Northeast Louisiana. Goodwill Industries contracted with several youth who attempted to purchase a variety of tobacco products including cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, such as e-vaper or chewing tobacco. Of these stops, only 5 were willing to sell tobacco products to underage youth.

Although there is no dedicated federal source of funding in implementing the SYNAR requirements, the partnership between NEDHSA and GINLA has been able to provide the data to the state to demonstrate the overall success in reducing youth access to tobacco products, and prevent youth tobacco use.

Goodwill Industries is proud to spotlight National Prevention Week and partner with NEDHSA in implementing comprehensive strategies to reduce usage of tobacco products. Without the SYNAR program and the random merchant inspections conducted throughout all of North Louisiana, we know that many more youth would have access to these products and the numbers would be even higher. If you are interested in learning more about how to quit, the SYNAR program or how you can get involved, please contact the Northeast Delta Human Services Authority at 318-362-3270.