Underage tobacco use is a major public health crisis in Maine: One in five Maine high school students uses tobacco products, and many start as young as 12 or 13. Over 2,000 Maine kids under 18 become daily smokers every year and almost 30,000 of them will die prematurely from their tobacco addiction.
It is estimated that 85% of the tobacco industry’s annual marketing budget is now spent on ads and promotions in retail stores such as gas stations, convenience stores, and even pharmacies. Overall growth in spending in Maine on tobacco sales increased by 88% between 1998 and 2005. Despite restrictions put on marketing tobacco, spending by the tobacco industry leaves states massively outspent – even in Maine, where prevention efforts are exemplary.
Enforcement of tobacco sales is a vital component in combating underage tobacco use. The NO BUTS! (Blocking Underage Tobacco Sales) program was created jointly by the Maine State Attorney General's Office and PTM in an effort to remind employers, managers and employees that, along with stiff fines and penalties for selling tobacco to underage consumers, there is a compelling public health incentive for blocking tobacco sales to minors. No BUTS! enhances Maine’s efforts to enforce tobacco sales laws in two ways: by giving retailers the tools they need to avoid selling tobacco to minors, and rewarding the overwhelming majority of Maine retailers who are already doing a good job.
Synar Regulations requires that each state enforce its underage access law and annually conduct random, unannounced inspections of a sample of tobacco vendors to assess compliance with the state’s access law. Find out how Synar Regulations prompted the development of the NO BUTS! program.
Success of this initiative is dependent on increasing the number of NO BUTS! stores across the state. HMPs are encouraged to survey their local tobacco retailers and provide NO BUTS! training and resources to those who have not had the training.
In addition, local HMPs are urged to increase the number of non-chain retailers that participate in NO BUTS! as well as previously trained but currently inactive stores. By actively recruiting previously unresponsive or uninformed stores and providing in-store training and assistance, HMPs can help reach the many small and family-owned single stores operating all over the state.
Retail store owners have a critical role to play in reducing youth tobacco use. NO BUTS! is designed to assist in adopting policies and practices that will effectively block sales. Also, a NO BUTS! employer can obtain compliance credits toward future violations.
In order to be a NO BUTS! employer, the store must have a written tobacco policy, implement training components for all employees, and display NO BUTS! materials in the store. Additional recommendations for good practice include implementing hiring policies, self-monitoring, using support tools, and limiting advertising.
The NO BUTS! Kit includes:
Promote NO BUTS! in your community and be a leader in the efforts toward prevention. Order the NO BUTS! Kit for retailers.
As part of the NO BUTS! program, the Star Store initiative encourages retailers to reduce tobacco advertising in their stores and reduce minors’ exposure to tobacco messaging. Star Store is a voluntary program, and in combination with NO BUTS!, it helps advance best retailing practices further by reducing the exposure of tobacco messages, advertising, and promotion to youth. Read more about the goals for the NO BUTS! Star Store program by reading the state’s Resolve.
Most importantly, Stare Store gets youth involved. Youth visit retail outlets, meet with managers, conduct surveys and make recommendations. They provide retailers with information about the program, and make decisions about awarding Star Store status.
PTM facilitates the involvement of Youth Advocacy Programs in Star Store:
Learn more about why promoting Star Store in your community is central to the effort of prevention and contact your local Healthy Maine Partnerships chapter to learn about youth and adult advocacy opportunities.
StoreAlert.org is a web site devoted to advocacy surrounding limiting exposure to retail tobacco.