Annual Synar Report
The Synar Amendment and Regulation
The history of the "Synar Amendment" began with 42 U.S.C. 300x-26, which was a Public Health Service Act from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, originally passed in 1944. Section 1926 of the Public Health Service Act requires states to have laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to juveniles, and to enforce those laws.
Public Law 102-321, called the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, was passed in July 1992. The late Representative Mike Synar was responsible for an amendment to this law, which required that tobacco be made unavailable to minors. Subsequently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was charged with implementing the legislation, including the Synar Amendment.
On January 19, 1996, SAMHSA issued 45 CFR Part 96, the Synar Regulation, which includes five requirements for states that receive Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SAPT) monies. These requirements are outlined below.
- The state must have a law prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco to any individual less than 18 years of age. Kentucky passed KRS 438 for this purpose.
- The law must be enforced to a degree that it can reasonably be expected to reduce the illegal sale of tobacco to anyone less than 18 years of age. The Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is responsible for enforcement of KRS 438.
- The state must develop a strategy for achieving a retailer violation rate (RVR) of less than 20 percent.
- The state must conduct annual, random, unannounced inspections of over-the-counter tobacco outlets and vending machines to ensure compliance with the law.
- The state must submit to SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention an annual report that details the actions undertaken to enforce the law, and include information on compliance with the law.
It is vital that recipients of SAPT funds comply with the above five requirements. For example, noncompliance with the third requirement of achieving an RVR of less than 20 percent carries the risk of losing 40 percent of SAPT Block Grant funds. For Kentucky, this translates to approximately 65 percent of the funds that are available to the Division of Behavioral Health for contract for substance abuse prevention and treatment.
According to SAMHSA, noncompliance rates in some states have been as high as 60 percent. After a peak of 24 percent in 1997 (the baseline year), Kentucky's rates have significantly decreased in recent years. Since 2004 the average Synar retail violation rate for Kentucky has been 6.8 percent.
The Substance Abuse Prevention Program of the Division of Behavioral Health is responsible for completing the Annual Synar Report. The Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control enforces the Synar Regulation and conducts the annual Synar survey. In addition, ABC and the Department of Agriculture check signage at retail tobacco outlets, as every outlet must display signage stating that tobacco products are not sold to minors.
Retail clerks must be taught the law regarding selling tobacco products to youth under eighteen years of age, so the Department of Agriculture also makes regular visits to retail establishments to assure that employee compliance forms are kept on file.