Michigan retailers are doing a great job NOT selling cigarettes to kids.  That’s the word from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)  after a series of spot-inspections conducted over the summer.

The state says just under 90% of retailers refused to sell tobacco to minors.  The state sent underage operatives into 356 stores to try and buy tobacco.  It’s all part of an effort to make sure that Michigan meets federal requirements.   The state has met the requirement for 19 consecutive years.   That said, it means 1 in 10 kids under 18 are able to buy cigarettes in Michigan.

“Deterring tobacco sales to youth is critical to reducing the negative health effects and deaths caused by smoking and tobacco use,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “We commend the business community for doing their part to protect Michigan youth from the dangers of smoking and thank our partners for conducting high quality inspections.

The Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act requires all states and territories to conduct inspections using a scientific random sample study protocol approved by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. States must demonstrate their tobacco vendor compliance rate meets or exceeds the federal minimum of 80 percent through random, unannounced inspections of tobacco retailers. This includes youth inspectors visiting retailers, attempting to make tobacco purchases and recording the results. Adult chaperones drive the youth inspectors and oversee the purchase attempts.

States that fall below the 80 percent minimum compliance rate are subject to a penalty of 40 percent of their federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding. For Michigan, this could mean more than $22 million.

States are also required to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under age 18. With the popularity of electronic nicotine devices, Michigan is strengthening tobacco education and awareness through a resource website called “Do Your Part,” designed to educate the general public and teens about the dangers of smoking.

Additionally, MDHHS is continuing outreach by providing educational materials to vendors that sell tobacco products. Businesses that want to educate staff, avoid fines and safeguard public health can access a free online presentation and certification test at Improvingmipractices.org.