In 2018, more than 13,000 youth (eighth to 12th grade) in Washington state smoked cigarettes. About 2,100 youth under age 18 start smoking daily each year.
Starting January 1, 2020, the legal minimum age to be sold tobacco and vapor products is 21 (Engrossed House Bill 1074). According to the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, the majority of 10th grade youth report obtaining their tobacco (57 percent) and vapor products (68 percent) from social sources. The Department of Health Commercial Tobacco Prevention Program (CTPP) supports the efforts of county and school tobacco prevention programs to restrict youth access to tobacco.
Retailer Compliance Checks and Education
In 1992, Congress passed the Synar Amendment, which requires states to have laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors. This amendment, named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires that each state must complete unannounced compliance checks of tobacco retailers and report the violation rate annually to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). States that fail to comply with the Synar Amendment risk losing up to 40 percent of federal block grant funds allocated for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. In Washington state, the lead agency for oversight of the Synar requirements is Health Care Authority. The Health Care Authority works in partnership with the Department of Health and the Washington State lcb and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). Learn about the Synar Amendment, its implementing regulation, and the Synar program.
The WSLCB, with support from CTPP and its partners, provides retailers with information about tobacco sales, legal requirements, and display regulations, and shows them how to help their employees comply with the law. Training is available for store employees from WSLCB. The 2018 weighted Synar tobacco retailer violation rate (RVR) was 10.4 percent. Local retailer Synar compliance rates include:
Accountable Communities of Health (ACH)/CTPP Regional Contractors
- Better Health Together
- Adams, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Stevens
- Cascade Pacific
- Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Thurston, and Wahkiakum
- Greater Columbia
- Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Kittitas, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima
- North Central
- Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan
- North Sound
- Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom
- Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap
- Southwest Washington
- Clark, Klickitat, and Skamania
Licensing and Monitoring Sales
The program works closely with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) to help ensure retailer compliance with tobacco and vapor product sales laws. The WSLCB conducts on-site inspections to help ensure compliance with approved signage and licensing requirements. The WSLCB tracks and enforces violations, and then works with retailers to correct problems.