By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Guam is becoming lax in abiding by a federal policy against selling tobacco products to minors, resulting in a 3 percent decrease in compliance rate, from 97 percent in 2022 to 94 percent this year.
According to the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, 13 tobacco retailers were found in violation of the age restriction for selling tobacco and electronic nicotine products. Guam law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old.
These establishments were issued citations and fines consisting of penalties ranging from $1,000 up to $10,000 per violation.
“We hope to continue to maintain compliance rates above 90 percent and gain community-wide commitment to protect our island’s youth from the damaging effects of tobacco and nicotine products," said Therese Arriola, director of the behavioral health agency.
Guam had 324 tobacco retailers registered with the Department of Revenue and Taxation this year, according to the mental health agency.
The behavioral health center and the tax agency conducted the island-wide, annual tobacco retailer compliance inspections.
The compliance monitoring is mandated by the federal government’s Public Law 102- 321, the Synar Amendment, which requires states and territories that receive Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds to establish and enforce the minimum legal age for purchasing and using tobacco products.
“The Synar inspection is an annual prevention initiative that allows the government of Guam to ensure, not only strict compliance among retailers of tobacco and e-cigarette policies, but more importantly, eliminating youth’s access to these products," Arriola said.
"The longer we delay tobacco and nicotine use by youth, the better we can protect Guam’s population from multiple negative health outcomes and other consequences now and in the future," she added.
Arriola said this year was the first time that electronic nicotine products were included in the inspection due to growing concerns over e-cigarette use among Guam’s youth, which was found above national standards.
"The increase in violations may imply that prevention work among retailers of e-cigarettes should be focused on in the coming years," Arriola said.