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Synar Amendment Overview 

The Synar Amendment is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) controlled act passed in 1992 with the goal of reducing youth access to tobacco. Named after sponsor and Oklahoma congressman Mike Synar, the amendment gives strict state guidance on the sale procedures for tobacco. Over the nearly 30 years of the Synar Amendment’s implementation, data shows that tobacco sales to minors (gauged by unannounced inspections) has fallen significantly.

Synar Requirements and Penalties 

The aim of the Synar Amendment is, according to SAMHSA, to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18. The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) awards are also only given to states that fully comply with the Synar Amendment. The regulation and updates from Public Law 116-94 requires that states: 

  • Enforce underage access laws to a degree that reasonably can be expected to reduce the illegal sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. 
  • Conduct annual, unannounced inspections that provide a valid probability sample of tobacco sales outlets accessible to minors. 
  • Report their sampling methodology and results of the annual Synar survey as a part of the Annual Synar Report no later than December 31. This includes the State’s sampling methodology, Synar survey results, Synar inspection report, and the Synar inspection protocol. 
  • Revise their methodology, inspection reports, and inspection protocols, to include the revised age requirements (under 21). In addition, the Synar survey results must now include results for sales to youth and young adults under the age of 21. 
  • Achieve a noncompliance rate of no more than 20% (SAMHSA requires that each state reduce its retailer violation rate to 20%). 

In addition to setting targets for the states, the Synar Amendment established penalties for noncompliance. The penalty for a state is loss of up to 10% of its Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) funds. 

A state can avoid the 10% reduction in its SABG funds if the state stipulates that it will spend its own funds to improve compliance with the law. Specifically, under the alternative penalty, a state that fails to meet Synar requirements can submit a corrective action plan to the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use that outlines strategies they will take to reduce the Retail Violation Rate to 20 percent or less. 

Recent Trends 

The results of the random, unannounced inspections show that most states have made significant progress in enforcing youth tobacco access laws and in reducing the percentage of retailers that sell tobacco products to minors. While the national weighted average Retail Violation Rate (RVR) has dramatically fallen since the inception of the Synar program, the rate has increased over the past three years, as seen by this graphic of the percentage of violations over time. 


Although the Synar amendment has done much to reduce the amount of tobacco falling into the hands of minors since 1997, the fact that those rates are increasing in recent years shows that stores must work harder to properly implement the act’s procedures. Tobacco retailers should stay vigilant about their sales to be sure not to sell to minors. 


How can Loss Prevention Analytics help you to keep track of age-restricted sales?

We can help you be sure that employees adhere to laws and internal policies with verifiable proof.
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A search of Synar reports provides the answer.

The short answer is “Yes”. The long answer is that it really depends on the state, Synar sampling, and how the survey is carried out.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Synar reports and their associated surveys, they are carried out every year by each state to measure the effectiveness of their tobacco programs.

Setting the Stage with Some Simple Facts and Data

According to the CDC, there are about 380,000 tobacco retailers in the US. According to Synar reports, that number is about right.

The Synar reports include surveys that describe the selection and inspection of retail locations by each state. Each report includes a set of data required by the SAMHSA/CSAP which provides three optional tables to report violations related to the sale of tobacco sales to minors. One of these tables is the number of violations by type of retail location.

The data set from 2020 that I’ve compiled is from 50 US states/regions which represent about 310,000 retail locations and 47,000 inspections. The subset of data related specifically to c-store and gas stations is the aggregate of 21 states, over 90,000 locations, almost 12,000 inspections, and almost 1,100 violations. 

C-Stores Do Violate the Law More than Other Retailers

Overall, c-stores not only received more inspections than other retailers but also had a higher aggregate violation rate. But… you have to also keep in mind that over 50% of tobacco retail locations are c-store/gas stations and that over 87% of cigarettes are sold through these retailers. So the percentage of inspections shouldn’t be a surprise and are, in fact, in line with buying behaviors.

Type of RetailerLocationsInspectionsViolations
 % Locations% of InspectionsViolate Rate Per Inspection
Gas Station45%52%11%
Tobacco Store5%6%10%
Grocery Store21%21%9%
Drug Store4%1%2%

Learn more about how Loss Prevention can help to stay in compliance with age restricted sales of tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets.

How can Loss Prevention Analytics help you to keep track of age-restricted sales?

We can help you be sure that employees adhere to laws and internal policies with verifiable proof.
Learn more

Lottery tickets are an integral part of c-store sales, and data from the Arizona Lottery Commission shows that sales have risen over 30% from 2020 to 2021. Lottery game sales reached over $1.4 billion over the past year.

However, the growth of lottery games comes with the risk of inventory issues such as internal theft. Petrosoft’s loss prevention analytics software will help you manage your lottery inventory and keep employee theft at bay. While inventory management is always important for all products, it becomes even more vital for lottery tickets.

Did you know that one stolen $30 lottery ticket could take as much as $1,200 in ticket sales to make up for the loss? That’s, of course, given you assume a typical 5% commission and a 50/50 gross profit split. That one ticket unaccounted for or unpaid can be a substantial hit to your profits.

How Easy is it for a Lottery Ticket to be Stolen?

Here are just three ways employees might try to commit theft with lottery tickets:

  • Price adjustment scams
    The price adjustment scam is when a cashier purchases a lottery ticket by legitimately scanning it but adjusting the listed price of the item to be less expensive, or voiding the sale entirely.
  • Partial or “Micro” scratching
    Before the ticket is purchased, a cashier will very lightly scratch off just enough to determine whether or not the ticket is a winner. Then, the losing microscratched tickets are returned for later sale while the winning tickets are cashed in.
  • Win/Lose swaps
    The cashier determines which tickets are winners, either before or during a legitimate purchase, and cashiers report no win to the customer while pocketing the prize.

How Can You Prevent Lottery Theft?

Lottery theft, although widespread and potentially devastating for c-store profits, can be managed with increased vigilance and help from technology. To cut off lottery theft:

  • Ticket storage and monitoring
    To prevent theft of lottery tickets, it is important to keep your ticket rolls in a safe, locked place when possible. It is essential that employees keep track of which ticket numbers they started and ended their shift on. Cameras should face the area where lottery tickets are sold, cashed and stored when possible.
  • Stay current with audits
    The more recent your last lottery audit, the more likely you are to catch theft and narrow down the perpetrator. Lottery audits should be performed often to notice any patterns of missing tickets quickly and effectively.
  • Invest in a dedicated loss prevention system
    Loss prevention analytics can keep track of everything from which ticket numbers have been sold, which sales have been voided and what shortages your store might be experiencing. An electronic loss prevention system can be invaluable for catching thefts early in a way that isn’t too time-consuming or intensive as working manually.

It can be hard to keep track of every lottery purchase and ensure its legitimacy. That’s why a loss prevention system specifically designed to spot theft is necessary for all lottery retailers. Get a notification and video footage of every no-sale, lottery pay-out and price change so that you can have the peace of mind that your store’s lottery inventory is in good hands.

Petrosoft’s loss prevention analytics system goes above and beyond to supplement inventory management so that you have every tool at your disposal to counteract lottery theft.

Interested in learning more about how Loss Prevention Analytics can help you keep track of lottery ticket inventory?

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