Michigan vendors protect youth from dangers of tobacco 15 years in a row

A statewide survey indicates that 84.5 percent of retailers did not sell tobacco products to youth under age 18, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (OROSC).

“This is the fifteenth consecutive year in which Michigan vendors have been in compliance with the federal minimum rate of 80 percent, and represents a 2.5 percent improvement over last year,” said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon.

“Our goal is to reduce these sales over the next two years to return to the 10.6 percent safety zone that Michigan achieved in 2012.”

Per the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, which includes an amendment aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco, all states and territories must conduct the survey using a scientific random sample study protocol.

Additionally, all states must demonstrate that its tobacco vendor compliance meets or exceeds the federal minimum compliance rate of 80 percent. States that fall below the 80 percent minimum compliance rate are subject to a penalty of 40 percent from their federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding. For Michigan, this could be up to $22.2 million.

During the summer of 2015, OROSC conducted random unannounced inspections statewide to measure the rate of illegal sales of tobacco to Michigan youth.

The survey involved visiting outlets that sell tobacco products, either over-the-counter or through vending machines.

To help maintain the positive momentum, during 2016, Michigan will continue its educational efforts to reach 100 percent of all establishments known to sell tobacco.

Online PowerPoint information and a certificated test option are also available for vendors free of charge. This will help retailers reinforce protocols with their staff, avoid fines, and safeguard the public.

Retailers can take advantage of this offer by going to www.improvingmipractices.org.

OROSC will continue to raise statewide awareness of this important issue with the help of our partners in the business. Deterring sales to youth is critical to reducing addictions, respiratory illnesses, some cancers, and ultimately deaths caused by smoking.

For additional information about the dangers of tobacco use and for resources to help quit smoking, visit the website at  www.michigan.gov/tobacco, or call the Michigan Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-Quit-Now.