More than 90% of adult smokers began smoking while they were teenagers.

A successful tobacco control program must work to prevent new smokers - most of them young people - from starting to use tobacco.

One method, proven to be effective and used by most states, is to restrict young people's access to tobacco products.

The federal Synar Amendment of 1997 requires states to have laws in place prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to persons under 18 and to enforce those laws effectively.

In addition, Synar requires that statewide compliance with these laws must be at a rate of 80% or better in order to release block grant funding for prevention programs in the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services of the Department of Public Health.

MTCP offers free educational trainings and materials to retailers that sell tobacco products. Visit Under 27: Show I.D., Under 18: No Sale for more info.

MTCP's efforts to prevent young people from purchasing tobacco focus on:

  • conducting compliance checks to monitor retailers' compliance with the law that prohibits selling tobacco to minors
  • inspecting tobacco retailers to monitor store environments for compliance with signage and permit requirements of the law

Compliance Checks - Tobacco Sales to Minors

MTCP-funded Boards of Health conducts retailer compliance checks to assess compliance with local regulations that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors.

Penalties for the sale of tobacco products to minors are assessed and levied by local Boards of Health. These include warnings, fines, and/or suspensions of local tobacco sales permits for repeat violations.

Tobacco Retail Store Inspections

MTCP-funded Board of Health programs conducts retail store inspections to determine if tobacco sales permits and/or required signs are posted, and if stores illegally sell tobacco products in self-service displays or vending machines.

"Store Alert" Tobacco Marketing Surveys

Studies have shown that children exposed to tobacco advertising are more likely to become smokers.

CMN staff and local teenagers visited retail establishments that sell tobacco products in order to collect data on tobacco marketing and advertising practices in local retail stores (e.g. monitor ads that are placed at a child's eye level).

Educating Retail Store Personnel

Boards of Health and CMNs conducted 65 merchant education trainings to teach store managers and employees about local and state youth access law and how to check identification.

Flavored Tobacco Survey

Flavored tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, incorporate tastes such as bubble gum, apple, mint and berry to mask the harsh taste of tobacco. Such products are likely to appeal to children and teen-agers who may wrongly believe that these products are less harmful than traditional tobacco products. Young people can quickly become addicted to nicotine by using flavored tobacco products.

In order to track the availability of flavored tobacco products in Massachusetts, MTCP funded a survey of retail stores throughout the Commonwealth.

Toll-free Sales to Minors Hotline

MTCP also established a toll-free statewide information and complaint telephone line to process complaints about illegal sales of tobacco products to youth under age 18.


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health.