State launches new tobacco training program

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
In 2012, the rate at which retailers sold tobacco to youth under age 18 was 12.1 percent, according to the CT Annual Synar Report (2014). By 2013, the report stated that this rate increased to 14.8 percent.
“I think we just hit a plateau,” said Carol Meredith, the Director of Prevention and Health Promotion for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), adding that federal investigations took part in more inspections to identify violators of the Synar Amendment, which requires states to pass laws forbidding the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18 and also requires states to complete unannounced inspections of tobacco retailers.
With the hope of reducing the number of retailer tobacco violations of the Synar Amendment in Connecticut, the State Capitol recently launched a new interactive merchant training that focuses on the prevention of selling tobacco to minors.
“Tobacco Sales: Do the Right Thing” is an online training site where storeowners and employees can learn about the legal responsibilities and liabilities of selling tobacco in Connecticut. Users can interact with customers and practice strategies on asking for and properly checking identification, handling an angry customer, refusing the sale of single cigarettes, coping with peer pressure and more, reported a recent press release. The online training also offers information about the health effects of using tobacco.
“It gives merchants skills they can practice in day to day work,” said Mary Kate Mason, the public relations manager at DMHAS, adding that tobacco merchants can use a variety of different scenarios to practice their skills.
Funded by DMHAS, the online training is a product of the Connecticut Merchant and Community Education Initiative administered by Wheeler Clinic’s Connecticut Center for Prevention, Wellness and Recovery, according the release. Meredith said
“We hope that in future years, we’ll be able to refine it…so we can hone the message a little bit more,” Meredith said.
STEPS Coordinator Kelly Leppard knew about this new training before it launched. Leppard said she hopes to see tobacco retailers in Southington participate in this initiative, which serves as a convenient way for them to take preventative measures in ensuring that minors do not have access to cigarettes.
“We’re looking forward to this being launched,” Leppard said, adding that the new training website serves as an integral part of what STEPS does as a community coalition.
“We’re very excited about this because the more people are certified, the less they will sell tobacco to minors.”

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