State Health Commissioner Novello Announces $3 Million in Grants for Local Tobacco Control Programs

Department Releases Third Annual Youth Enforcement Report: More Compliance Checks, Lower Rates of Tobacco Use by Kids, and Better Compliance by Retailers

Albany, October 1, 2001 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today announced $3 million in State grants to local governments to fund Governor Pataki's aggressive youth tobacco enforcement program. In addition, the Department of Health today released statistics from its third annual Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Program Report, highlighting the highest level of retailer compliance with adolescent tobacco access laws since the program began.

Dr. Novello said, "Governor Pataki's commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles for our children, including efforts to prevent youth access to cigarettes and other tobacco products, is unparalleled. Over the past four years, the Governor provided more than $8.5 million in funding to our partners at the local level to help reduce youth smoking in New York. And today, we continue that commitment by funding this critical anti–smoking initiative that will help build on our efforts to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our youth."

As part of the Governor's $60 million anti–smoking campaign, $3 million is provided again this year for the Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Program to conduct retailer compliance inspections (with the cooperation of minors attempting to purchase over–the–counter tobacco products) and the training of local enforcement officers in the surveillance of vendors.

A recent survey of ninth grade students in Erie County conducted by Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) demonstrates that Governor Pataki's aggressive youth anti–smoking initiatives are working in New York State. Results of the 2000–01 survey indicate that the use of tobacco products among participating ninth grade students declined by nearly 40 percent since a similar survey in 1996. It showed that tobacco use decreased from 30 percent in 1996 to 18 percent in 2000–01. The latest survey included 5,782 students, representing 48 percent of ninth graders attending schools in Erie County.

In the youth enforcement program, local governments perform compliance checks in 35 counties and New York City. In the remaining counties, State Health Department district office staff performs the inspections. Under New York State law, tobacco retailers are required to register with the State Department of Taxation and Finance.

In addition to the funding announced today, the State Health Department released its 1999–2000 Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Report. The report shows that in the third year, 32,857 compliance checks were conducted, resulting in fines against 2,919 retailers, totaling $819,400. The report also shows that retail vendor compliance with New York's ATUPA continues to improve.

In the three years (1998–2000) since Governor Pataki provided funding to support the program, 85,059 retailer compliance inspections have been conducted with more than 64,244 performed with the assistance of minors attempting to purchase over–the–counter tobacco products. These compliance inspections resulted in enforcement actions against 10,235 retailers and more than $2.7 million in fines in the first three years of the State's program to crackdown on cigarette sales to youth.

The vendor compliance rate has continually increased over the first three years of the program, increasing from 81 percent in 1998 to 88 percent in 2000. Preliminary information regarding the fourth program year which ends on September 30, 2001, indicates a continued improvement in the level of retailer compliance.

Dr. Novello said, "We are pleased to see that retailers are doing a much better job of making sure that teens are not being sold tobacco. And, preliminary information form this year shows that retailers are continuing this upward trend."

Highlights of the first three years of the Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Program:

  • More than $2.3 million has been collected from the $2.7 million levied against 10,235 retailers for the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors in the first three years of the program.
  • In the first three years of the program, 85,059 compliance checks have been performed, of which 64,244 were conducted with the assistance of minors.
  • Five–Thousand–Eight–Hundred–Sixty–Eight (5,868) retailers and vending machine owners were reported to the State Department of Taxation and Finance for lack of required registration to sell tobacco products in the first three years of the program. Approximately 1,340 were reported in the 1999–2000 program year.

Last year, Governor Pataki strengthened the State's youth enforcement program by signing into law a measure that increased the civil penalties for first–time violators who sell tobacco products to minors, established new stringent penalties for repeat violators and imposed a new fine for retail dealers who sell cigarettes to minors while their registration is suspended or revoked. Specifically, civil fines are now imposed in the following way:

  • Fines for first–time violators who sell cigarettes or other tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18 have been increased from a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $300 to a minimum of $300 and a maximum of $1,000.
  • A new fine for repeat violators who sell cigarettes or other tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18 has been set at a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $1,500.
  • A new fine for retail dealers who sell tobacco products while their registration is suspended or revoked has been set at $2,500.
  • Along with increasing civil fines, the new law strengthens the suspension and revocation provisions for repeat violations. It mandates the suspension of a retail dealer's registration for six months for two violations and revokes the registration for one year for three or more violations. A violation while a retailer's registration is suspended or revoked will result in permanent revocation.

In addition, this law requires the suspension of a tobacco vendor's lottery license for six months for a second violation and permanent revocation of it for committing a third violation. The new law mandates the names and addresses of businesses that engage in illegal tobacco sales to be published in local newspapers. The new law took effect September 1, 2000.

Under the Governor's leadership, the State has undertaken a comprehensive, $60 million statewide anti–smoking and tobacco control effort, which includes:

  • Support for school–based tobacco prevention programs;
  • Creation of the largest anti–tobacco advertising program in State history;
  • Promotion of smoking cessation services;
  • Support for a statewide tobacco quitline (1–888–609–6292);
  • Advertising aimed at adult smoking cessation;
  • Advertising to highlight the dangers of secondary smoke; and
  • Coverage of prescribed and over–the–counter smoking cessation products.

Governor Pataki also signed a law, effective October 1, 2001, that restricts sales locations for bidis, a tobacco product which is attractive to young people, to tobacco businesses, such as tobacco specialty shops. Please see the Attachment on counties awarded funding under ATUPA.

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