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April 7, 2000

Ryan Seeks Funding To Continue Curbs On Underage Tobacco Use

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today asked the General Assembly to grant a $400,000 supplemental appropriation to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission this spring in order to continue a statewide inspection program that has helped curb under-age smoking.

"Without this funding, we’ll be unable to continue the inspections of stores, taverns and restaurants which are conducted each year by the Liquor Control Commission," Ryan said. "It is very important for us to continue these inspections in order to curb under-age smoking."

Since 1994, the inspections have helped Illinois make significant progress in raising tobacco minimum-age compliance levels from 33 percent to 88 percent.

On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal Food and Drug Administration lacks jurisdiction to regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Following this ruling, the Liquor Control Commission was notified by the FDA that all inspections in Illinois funded by the federal government would be terminated.

Illinois was one of the first ten states to conduct compliance inspections for the FDA to enforce minimum-age tobacco laws. Over the last three years, Illinois was allocated over $1.2 million to conduct 17,400 compliance checks. Tobacco inspectors conduct compliance checks with the help of minors recruited by community leaders and local Fraternal Order of Police lodges.

During these inspections, tobacco retailers found violating minimum-age laws receive a warning letter. Subsequent violations are subject to a $250 fine.

"Ending the 6,000 FDA compliance inspections that we conduct each year will have a deleterious effect on the state’s ability to maintain a required tobacco vendor compliance level of 80 percent," said state Liquor Control Director Sam Panayotovich. "Once Illinois’ compliance level falls below 80 percent, the state’s Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention Bock Grant funds are open to federal penalties."

In a worst case scenario, the state could loose up to 40 percent of its $69.4 million federal grant, or $27.7 million. There are approximately 8 states that are having their funds withheld or delayed for failing to meet these compliance rates.

"It would be a step backward to abandon this important work targeted at preventing Illinois children under the age of 18 from illegally purchasing tobacco products," Ryan said.


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