Since 2002, ADHS has contracted with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to conduct routine inspections of tobacco retailers to ensure that retailers are complying with the state prohibition on selling tobacco products to minors. Studies have shown that effective youth tobacco enforcement programs reduce the prevalence of youth smoking. Arizona has a dedicated team of public health officials and law enforcement who are constantly striving to make sure that our enforcement program is highly effective and therefore as effective as possible at keeping tobacco away from our youth.
In the past few years, ADHS has worked with its partners to expand and improve inspections while simultaneously providing an education program for retailers to improve compliance. County health educators provide outreach and education to retailers both as routine education and as a diversion option for retailers and individuals who receive citations for selling tobacco to minors. County Attorneys’ offices and Justice Courts are integral partners in directing the cited parties to education rather than issuing fines alone. And businesses are stepping forward more and more to send their employees to the state training voluntarily rather than waiting for a violation. This integrated approach, combined with ongoing inspections by both the Attorney General’s Office and the federal FDA tobacco inspection programs, has led to record low inspection failure rates for the past two years.
Fiscal year 2016 showed a significant improvement from a consistent failure rate of around 18 percent since 2002 all the way down to 13.3 percent. Fiscal year 2017 shows that we are still moving in the right direction, with failure rates dropping down to 11.6 percent. This consistent improvement shows that monitoring and enforcement combined with effective education leads to improved compliance with the prohibition on sales to minors. And that means fewer Arizona youth starting on the path to tobacco addiction, disease, and early death.