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Desiree Goetze
Indiana Prevention Resource Center

Major Robin Poindexter
Indiana State Excise Police

Last modified: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Indiana youth access to tobacco declines to all-time low of 12.7 percent

April 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Tobacco retailers in Indiana are more diligent than ever in refusing to sell to minors, according to the latest data from the Tobacco Retailer Inspection Program, a joint venture of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University and the Indiana State Excise Police. When TRIP first initiated its program in 2000, 40 percent of retailers sold tobacco to minors. That number has dropped each year and is now down to 12.7 percent.

Desiree Goetze, a researcher with the IPRC, said access to tobacco is a major factor in teen smoking rates, which have also declined in recent years.

"By enforcing these laws, Indiana sends a clear message that youth tobacco use is not tolerated in our state," Goetze said. "TRIP is part of a larger effort that includes cessation programs, counter-marketing and evaluation."

TRIP conducts unannounced inspections of retail outlets across the state. In each of 13 inspection districts, teams comprised of an officer, adult assistant and youth assistant visit about 300 stores in their district throughout the year. During the inspection, the youth enters the store under the observation of the adult or officer and attempts to buy a tobacco product -- usually cigarettes, but sometimes chewing tobacco if it is a popular product in the area. If the youth is successful with the purchase, the police officer issues a notice of violation to the clerk and to the store.

It is illegal in Indiana for a clerk or a retail establishment to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The fine for violating this law ranges from $50 to $500 depending on the number of prior violations the store or clerk has received.

Estimated annual costs of smoking in Indiana include $1.6 billion in health care and over 10,000 lives lost, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Nearly every adult who smokes took his or her first puff at or before age 18," Goetze said. "Retailers are in a position of working the front lines of preventing youth smoking. By not selling tobacco to minors, stores are reinforcing the message to youth that tobacco is an addictive, harmful, costly product that should be avoided."

"We have made tremendous progress over the last six years in reducing the number of retail outlets willing to sell tobacco to minors," said Major Robin Poindexter of the Indiana State Excise Police. "Through education and constant enforcement, we are making a difference in youth access to tobacco."

According to the IPRC's annual survey on use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs among Indiana students, the number of 8th grade students who reported smoking cigarettes within the last 30 days dropped more than 5 percent since 2000; 10th grade monthly tobacco use dropped more than 8 percent; and 12th grade use dropped more than 12 percent.

For more information, visit the TRIP Web site at Call the Indiana State Excise Police hotline, 1-866-2STOPEM, to report a vendor suspected of selling tobacco products to minors.

The Tobacco Retailer Inspection Program is supported by the Master Tobacco Settlement fund through the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency. TRIP is administered through the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and the Department of Applied Health Science.