Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                                                                               
             HB 365 MINOR IN POSSESSION OF TOBACCO                            
                                                                              
 PATTI SWENSON, staff to Representative Con Bunde, sponsor of HB
 365, gave the following summary of the legislation.  In 1992 the              
 problem of tobacco sales to minors was addressed by the Synar                 
 amendment on the federal level.  The amendment required states to             
 conduct random, unannounced, inspections of locations which sell              
 tobacco and to show reduction in illegal sales.  In order to reduce           
 rates of nicotine addiction in youth and to assure compliance with            
 the Synar amendment, members of the Tobacco Control Alliance have             
 been seeking to undertake compliance checks to determine which                
 merchants are selling tobacco to children.  Compliance checks                 
 involve having undercover youth attempt to buy tobacco.                       
                                                                               
 Number 159                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER stated he was leary of the bill because it would               
 require disguising a 16-year old as an adult.                                 
                                                                               
 MS. LEWIS responded no disguise is used.  When buying cigarettes,             
 the children don't try to disguise their ages, and if asked their             
 ages, they are told not to lie.  Tobacco possession by minors is              
 currently illegal and law enforcement agencies are reluctant to use           
 children for compliance checks because the evidence may not be                
 valid if this practice is not permissible by law.  The same                   
 practice is used for alcoholic beverages.                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked how much a minor would be paid for being a                
 snitch in an undercover operation.  MS. LEWIS was unsure whether              
 anyone would be paid.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 195                                                                    
                                                                               
 GLEN RAY of the Department of Health and Social Services                      
 stated no methodology for paying minors has been set up.  The                 
 practice of doing compliance checks in Dillingham, Ketchikan,                 
 Juneau and Anchorage has been done by volunteers, to date.  Whether           
 or not the individuals will be paid is uncertain.  His 15 year old            
 son has participated in compliance checks in Juneau, and was sold             
 cigarettes in 60 percent of his attempts, which is a bit lower than           
 the national average.  The children who participate in compliance             
 checks are encouraged not to lie or mislead anyone, and it is                 
 important that the child look their age.                                      
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR referred to the required approval and parental                
 consent provision to participate, if the child is not of the age of           
 majority, and questioned whether children of any age might                    
 participate. MR. RAY responded there is no minimum age, but                   
 research shows that children at about age 14 are able to buy                  
 cigarettes.                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented it seems inconsistent to allow these same           
 children to get free condoms through various programs and get                 
 abortions without parental consent.  He asked whether the bill                
 should contain a minimum age.                                                 
                                                                               
 MR. RAY responded he did not know what the minimum age should be.             
 The point of the activity is to identify the locations where                  
 children can buy cigarettes because some stores consistently sell             
 them to minors.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN asked what happens to the merchant who is not in                
 compliance.  MR. RAY answered there is a fine of $300, but to his             
 knowledge no one has ever been fined.                                         
 MR. RAY informed committee members if a minor attempted to do a               
 compliance check without being accompanied by a police officer, the           
 minor could be fined and punished.  This bill would allow minors to           
 work in cooperation with the police.                                          
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if this bill would be passed to allow the               
 child to break the law.  MR. RAY believed it would allow a child to           
 work in cooperation with police.                                              
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if an underage delivery person could deliver            
 cigarettes as part of a grocery order.  MR. RAY believed that would           
 be illegal if HB 365 passes.                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. SWENSON informed committee members $480,000 in federal funds              
 for FY 96 for substance abuse and treatment block grants will be              
 withheld if the state is not in compliance with the Synar                     
 amendment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated the Synar amendment requires an inspection             
 program but does not require that minors be involved.  MS. SWENSON            
 agreed, but questioned how the state could find out if stores were            
 selling tobacco to minors.  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented a compliance            
 check could be conducted with surveillance.                                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN asked how other states are fulfilling this                      
 requirement.  MR. RAY offered to get that information for committee           
 members.                                                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS questioned whether having an adult stationed outside            
 of a store to interview minors who have purchased cigarettes would            
 meet compliance requirements.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 352                                                                    
                                                                               
 KAREN DELANEY, Tobacco Prevention and Control Coordinator, DHSS,              
 stated the Department of Health and Human Services' and Substance             
 Abuse and Mental Health Administration's (SAMHA) written summaries            
 of studies nationwide have included procedures for youth                      
 involvement and encourage the use of youth, ages 15 and 16, in                
 compliance checks.  As the state moves into Synar implementation,             
 compliance check procedures will be standardized, and the age of              
 youth to be involved will be defined.  The federal regulations do             
 not require the use of youth in compliance checks, however the                
 state cannot be effective in monitoring compliance without youth              
 involvement.                                                                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN questioned what the penalty would be if a minor was             
 smoking on the street.  MR. RAY replied the child would be cited,             
 could be fined up to $50 and the court could require the child to             
 take part in an educational program.                                          
                                                                               
 MS. DELANEY stated SAMHA has estimated it will cost the state                 
 $250,000 to implement the Synar amendment provisions annually.  If            
 HB 365 does not pass, the cost will increase, because involving               
 youth in inspections would require local legal authority in every             
 community that is identified to be part of the random, unidentified           
 inspections.  Also, the penalty associated with state non-                    
 compliance during this third applicable year of Synar                         
 implementation is $480,000 and will increase to 40 percent of the             
 federal block grant to the State of Alaska next year if it remains            
 out of compliance.                                                            
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if we need authority of this type for the               
 purposes of prosecuting juveniles on illegal drug activities.  MR.            
 RAY replied the Division of Public Health has focussed on the                 
 consequences of long term tobacco use, so could not address the               
 question at this time.                                                        
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR agreed there are major health ramifications for               
 long term tobacco use, but discussed the huge ramifications of                
 short term use of other drugs.  He believed there to be a shift in            
 policy for the involvement and utilization of young people.                   
                                                                               
 MS. DELANEY emphasized HB 365 addresses compliance checks for                 
 tobacco and did not believe it would be possible to use youth to              
 check for the sale of illegal street drugs.                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked Mr. Ray to provide the committee with                   
 information on how other states have addressed this issue, and                
 announced the bill will be taken up at the next hearing.  He                  
 adjourned the meeting at 4:27 p.m.                                            

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