POINT PLEASANT — At this month’s meeting of the Mason County Family Resource Network, Executive Driector Greg Fowler gave an update on the county’s Synar visit results, and members voted on the election of new FRN officers.
Synar is a federally-funded program that the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention oversees across the United States under the Synar Amendment. The amendment requires states to have laws in place prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to persons under the age of 18.
The concept behind the annual Synar visits is to send an underage youth to randomly selected retail destinations with a state police officer in civilian clothes. The youth attempts to purchase tobacco, and should the retailer sell the underage youth tobacco products, the state police will issue a citation and the business will have to pay a fine.
If too many retailers sell to underage youths, the state can lose federal funding for the program. Specifically, the state of West Virginia could lose $3.5 million annually in federal block grant dollars for treatment and prevention services if the statewide noncompliance retailer violation rate is more than 20 percent.
Fowler said he was pleased with this year’s Synar visit results in Mason County.
“This year we had 11 stores to visit. Six is the most we’ve ever had before for any year,” he said. “We had 11 stores, and one sold cigarettes to a youth. That’s less than 10 percent and that’s the goal. I was very well pleased because I thought for sure, with the 11 stores we had, there would be at least three sales. So I was very well pleased with the outcome.”
Retailers throughout the state recently received education materials called, “See Red?”, which aid retailers in complying with the state law (W.Va. State Code 16-9A-2.) The tobacco products that are illegal to sell to youths under 18 include cigarettes, cigarette papers, pipes, cigars, blunts, small cigars (cigarillos,) snuff and chewing tobacco.
The educational material includes two flyers and register stickers, and was developed for ease in reminding retailers what to look for on forms of identification. Specifically, there are two W.Va. graduated driver’s licenses for youth under the age of 18 that are currently valid. One has a red background with a yellow bar along the side of the photo that shows the date the person turns 18 (‘Turns 18 On__’), and one still has a red background but has the dates the youth turns 18 and 21 listed in the upper right-hand corner of the license.
“At the one (store) that sold (to a minor) was a 72-year-old lady. She looked at his card — his driver’s license, which was in red — then looked at him and said, ‘You look too young to buy cigarettes.’ Then sold (the cigarettes) to him,” Fowler said.
Overall, Fowler said he thinks most clerks are finding the “See Red?” material helpful.
“I think we’re getting the word out. I think most of the stores and clerks understand that they don’t sell to a youth and that’s what we want,” he said.
Another item of business members discussed was the voting and election of new officers.
New officers appointed for the Mason County FRN are: Bree Ramey, president, Roxanne Smith, vice president, Lisa Arbogast, treasurer and Debbie Hon, secretary.
Fowler also updated members on the Jackson County FRN, which Fowler said he has been working with for a few years to help make them an active FRN once again and get them reconnected with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
“It’s been kind of a long time coming and a lot of work, and no pay. But the Jackson County FRN will be an active FRN for the 2014/2015 year,” he said.
Team members also talked about upcoming community events such as National Drug Take-Back Day on Sept. 27 a from 10 a.m. to 2p.m. at two locations to be announced, and the Ride for Recovery on Sept. 13 at Riverfront Park at 12:30 p.m., both hosted by the Anti-Drug Coalition.
Additionally, the Mason County Homeless Shelter will hold an open house Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.