HONOLULU -- In 1996, Hawaii had one of the worst track records in the country when it came to selling tobacco to minors. Six years later, an aggressive anti-smoking campaign that includes sting operations, print advertising and merchant education has resulted in Hawaii being ranked among the best states in preventing tobacco sales to minors, health officials said yesterday.
The number of Hawaii stores caught selling tobacco to minors decreased from 43 percent in 1996 to 6 percent this year, which is believed to be one of the best compliance rates in the nation, according to state Health Director Bruce Anderson. Final nationwide statistics will be available in October, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
Hawaii state law prohibits tobacco sales to people under the age of 18. Retailers convicted of selling to minors face a mandatory fine of $500. States with a merchant compliance rate of 80 percent and higher get to keep millions of federal dollars. Hawaii will continue to receive about $3 million in federal money for alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and treatment services, said Elaine Wilson, chief of the state Department of Health's alcohol and drug abuse division.
In the spring of 2002, 15 out of 249 stores (6 percent) were caught selling cigarettes to minors in a random statewide inspection. In addition to the random inspections, the state Department of Health, the four county police departments and the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii performed another inspection for all the tobacco-selling stores in the state. Of the 1,229 stores inspected from May 2001 to March 2002, 17.6 percent of the stores sold cigarettes to minors compared to 26.1 percent in 2001.
This year, the state started a print campaign that identified stores that violated and complied with the state law that prohibits selling tobacco to minors. The state also gave merchants pocket-sized cards to help them calculate ages easier, and provided them with brochures about the law.
ABOVE: Hawaii State Health Director Bruce Anderson