Students who inspected Cibola County merchants this spring as part of the Synar Tobacco Merchant Compliance Checks Program – a collaborative effort between the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna (ACL) Teen Centers and the Laguna Prevention Coalition – reported that 2 out of 3 merchants who sell tobacco products abided by the law not to sell tobacco to minors. A student who participated in the compliance checks stated, “[ Keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors] helps improve the community – it’s worth it!”

Appreciation goes to Canoncito Grocery in To’Hajiilee and Love’s Country Store, Inc. in Milan for not selling tobacco products to youth. According to the New Mexico Tobacco Products Act, it is against the law for merchants to sell tobacco products to youth under 18 years of age.

As part of their overall health promotion program, the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna (ACL) Teen Centers conduct the “Synar Tobacco Merchant Education and Merchant Compliance Checks” project in and around Cibola County to see how many merchants comply with this act. In the fall of 2007, the youth provided education to Cibola County tobacco merchants about the NM Tobacco Products Act, the importance of compliance in order to help keep youth healthy, and the penalties for violating that Act.

Compliance checks were conducted by youth from the Pueblos of Laguna this spring. Four students, aged 15-17, conducted supervised unannounced inspections to three local merchants and tried to purchase tobacco products. The teens did not carry identification or enough money to buy cigarettes or other products, nor did they disguise themselves or change how they look.

Two of those merchants refused to sell tobacco to the minors. According to CDC’s report, “Preventing tobacco use among young people,”teens who smoke are three times more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. Prevention of tobacco use by youth is very important to their overall health, which is why keeping tobacco out of the hands of its youth has become a community-wide effort in Cibola County. The Synar Tobacco Merchant Compliance Checks Program is funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.

The ACL Teen Centers have served the ACL communities for over 20 years. They provide medical and mental health services to students from three school-based health clinics at To’hajiilee Community School, Laguna/Acoma Middle/Senior High School and at Laguna Middle School. In addition, Substance Abuse Prevention services are provided to students attending the five area elementary and middle schools. The ACL Teen Centers are affiliated with the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center in Albuquerque. For more information, please contact: Lora Church, Senior Program Manager, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Prevention Research Center, at 505-272-4462.