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Last modified: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TRIP: Indiana tobacco sales to minors reaches new low, good news

Feb. 18, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Sales of tobacco products to Indiana youth who are assisting with the Tobacco Retailer Inspection Program (TRIP) hit an all-time low last year. Sales occured during just 7.2 percent of more than 8,000 inspections, reversing the slight increase seen the previous year.

TRIP is a joint venture of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington and the Indiana State Excise Police.

When TRIP inspections began in 2000, 40 percent of retailers were found to have sold tobacco to minors, and the state saw six consecutive years of decline until 2007's slight increase. In 2007, underage sales were made during 12.7 percent of inspections, compared to 10.5 percent the previous year.

"The data from 2008 reflects the work that is being done across the state to protect Indiana youth from the harmful effects of tobacco," said Aaron Jones, TRIP operations coordinator at the IPRC. "Many steps were taken last year to directly influence youth access. Through revisions to the state code, the State Excise Police enacted a steeper fine schedule for retail outlets with violations, and the development of a new online manual and quiz for retail clerks was an important educational component."

In Indiana it is illegal for a clerk or a retail establishment to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

Last year TRIP conducted more than 8,000 unannounced inspections of retail outlets across the state -- an increase of more than 1,400 inspections from 2007. In each of 13 inspection districts, teams made up of a police officer, an adult assistant and a youth assistant conduct the inspections.

During TRIP inspections, the youth enters a 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, or cigars. If the youth is successful with the purchase, the TRIP officer issues a notice of violation to the clerk and to the store. Fines for stores with violations range from $200 to $1,000 depending on the number of prior violations the store has received.

The TRIP program is an important component in Indiana's effort to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco use by adults is linked with the age of initiation. The American Lung Association reports that 90 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21, and up to half of them will die from tobacco related diseases.

"Programs such as a TRIP are a proven prevention approach that can impact tobacco use rates," said Ruth Gassman, IPRC executive director. "By improving compliance with policies and laws, we can change the way in which youth view tobacco use. As with the support for clean indoor air ordinances, limiting youth access to tobacco products is another way of demonstrating that Indiana cares about the health of our youth."

TRIP is supported by the Master Tobacco Settlement fund through the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency and is administered through the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and the IPRC, which is in the School of HPER's Department of Applied Health Science. Additional funding for TRIP comes from the FSSA Division of Mental Health and Addiction to cover activities related to federal reporting requirements resulting from the Synar Amendment.

For more information, contact Jones at 812-855-8263 and