August 14, 2003
Hawaii’s tobacco sales to minors are among the lowest in the
nation. According to this year’s survey by the State Department
of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD), sales
decreased compared to last year in Hawaii. The joint program with the
University of Hawaii’s Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and ADAD
monitors the State’s compliance with the Synar Regulation of the
federal Public Health Service Act of 1993.
Director of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino said, “Since this
program began, eight years ago, we have watched the rates of
noncompliance from 45% (1996) to 6.2% (2003). Through hard work, an
aggressive, engaging anti-smoking campaign, extensive merchant
education, and a print campaign that recognizes local merchants for
compliance or noncompliance with the sales to minors law, Hawaii has
one of the lowest rates of selling tobacco to minors in the
The Synar Regulation, a federal mandate, requires each state to
document a rate of tobacco sales to minors of no more than 20% or risk
losing millions in federal funds for alcohol and other drug abuse
prevention and treatment services.
The Hawaii Year 2003 survey found that 6.2% of all the stores
inspected, in the scientifically-based random sample of retail outlets
statewide, sold cigarettes to minors. The non-compliance rate for the
City and County of Honolulu is 4.9%. Kauai and Maui County rates of
sales are 9.1% and 3.7% respectively, while the Big Island’s rate
that was 25% last year decreased to 14.3% this year.
In the Spring of 2003, teams made up of youth volunteers (ages
15-17) and adult observers visited a random sample of 209 stores in
which the youth attempted to buy cigarettes to determine how well
retailers were complying with the State tobacco laws.
6.2% (13 stores) sold to minors (ages 15-17) without identification.
Since 1996, the rates of noncompliance have dropped from 45% (1996) to
6.2% (2003). There was a slight non-significant increase from last
year’s noncompliance rate of 6.0% (2002).
Breakdown by County:
2003 Synar Regulation
There were two significant factors associated with lower tobacco
sales to minors:
- Whether the clerk requested identification (higher percentage of
sales when not requested);
- Whether the clerk requested identification or age (higher
percentage of sales when not requested).
Hawaii State Law prohibits tobacco sales to persons under the age of
18. Merchants convicted of selling to minors face a mandatory fine of
In addition to the Synar Regulation inspections, the DOH, in
cooperation with all four County Police Departments and the Cancer
Research Center of Hawaii, has a program to enforce the State statute.
Every outlet in the State that sells tobacco is inspected at least once
a year, and often twice. The enforcement program uses teenagers between
the ages of 15 and 17, carrying identification, who attempt to purchase
cigarettes under the supervision of an undercover police officer.
There were 1,310 retail outlets throughout the State of Hawaii
inspected from April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2003. 13.9% of the outlets
(182 stores) sold to minors (ages 15-17) who produced valid
identification if asked for it. This is a substantial decrease from
last year’s noncompliance rate of 17.6% (2002). This year’s
non-compliance rate of 13.9% marks an all-time low for the enforcement
of tobacco sales laws to minors!
By County, the results of the police-assisted inspections were as
Significant factors associated with purchase of tobacco during
monthly police stings:
- Type of outlet (gas stations had the highest percentage of
- Location of tobacco (higher percentage when not kept behind
- Whether the clerk requested minor’s identification;
- Whether the clerk requested minor’s age;
- Whether the clerk requested identification or age;
- Whether a warning sign was posted (higher percentage when not
- Sex of minor (more sales to males);
- Number of cash registers in store (stores with one register had the
highest percentage of sales).
The DOH provides information and training to educate store clerks to
help them identify minors and develop skills to prevent sales to those
under the age of 18. Newly developed outreach materials help clerks
know which years on identification documents they can sell tobacco
products to. Statewide compliance inspections, in partnership with the
Cancer Research Center and the County Police Departments, will continue
to be conducted.
The encouraging news on tobacco sales to Hawaii minors comes on the
announcement that Governor Linda Lingle has joined the board of the
American Legacy Foundation (ALF), a national, independent public health
foundation dedicated to educating youth and adult on the dangers of
tobacco use. Governor Lingle was appointed by the National Governors
Association, which selects two of its members to serve on the 11-member
"I'm pleased that Hawaii businesses are leading the nation in
preventing the sale of tobacco to our minors," said Governor Lingle. "I
look forward to serving on the foundation's board and strategizing
future anti-tobacco campaign initiatives on a national level, as well
as instituting ALF programs here in Hawaii."
For more information, contact:
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division Chief
Phone: (808) 282-0785