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Synar Survey


In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act (PL 102-321), which includes an amendment to Section 1926 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x-26) aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco. This amendment, named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires States (that is, all States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and six Pacific jurisdictions) to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18. States must comply with the Synar Amendment in order to receive their full Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) awards.

On January 19, 1996, SAMHSA published “Tobacco Regulation for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants” in the Federal Register, amending 45 C.F.R. Part 96 to add section 96.130 – State Law Regarding the Sale of Tobacco Products to Individuals Under the Age of 18 – known as the Synar regulation. SAMHSA subsequently issued and revised guidance documents, providing instructions to States on compliance rate goals, use of funds, State reporting requirements, conforming amendments, and penalties.

Public Law 116-94, signed on December 20, 2019, supersedes this legislation and increased the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21. PL 116-94 also amends section 906(d) of the Federal Food, Drug, 2 and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the General Provisions Respecting Control of Tobacco Products, raising the federal minimum age for sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years and instructing the Food and Drug Administration to make conforming changes to regulations regarding sale and distribution of tobacco products to carry out the amendments made by Public Law 116-94. These conforming changes include increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age, increasing the minimum age for age verification by means of photographic identification from under the age of 27 to under the age of 30, and increasing the minimum age of individuals that may be present or permitted to enter facilities that maintain vending machines or selfservice displays that sell tobacco products from 18 years to 21 years of age.

The annual survey is designed to assess the effectiveness of the State’s enforcement program. It is conducted with youth participants who attempt to purchase tobacco products from randomly selected retailer outlets. The survey produces a probability estimate of retailer's compliance with the tobacco access law.

Reports / Tools

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2020 Synar Dashboard

Interactive graphs and tables are displayed to explore the most recent year's results, as well as the historical results of the Synar survey from the last 10 years. Significance tests and odds ratios are displayed.

SAPT Block Grant

The above link will take you to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant website. To access, log in as "citizenpa" and use "citizen" as the password. The most current Annual Synar Report (ASR) can be found within the site. The ASR is the official means for Pennsylvania to comply with the reporting provisions of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x-26) and the Tobacco Regulation for the SAPT Block Grant (45 C.F.R. 96.130 (e)).

Coverage Survey

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Details the survey to test the coverage of the Synar sampling frame. Coverage surveys are run every 3 to 5 years. The Synar sample is drawn from a sampling frame created from the Department of Revenue’s Cigarette License File (CLF) containing the name and address of every outlet that purchased a license to sell cigarettes in Pennsylvania. Federal regulations require Pennsylvania to test the quality of the sampling frame by conducting a coverage survey. A valid survey relies on a valid sampling frame. Assessing the quality of the sampling frame is an important part of the survey procedure. When assessing the quality of a list based sampling frame, two deficiencies are usually measured, over-coverage and under-coverage. Over-coverage occurs when the frame contains ineligible outlets such as outlets that are not accessible to youth, duplicate addresses, no longer open for business or outlets that no longer sell cigarettes. The over-coverage rate is calculated within the Synar report and does not require a separate survey. Under-coverage, on the other hand, occurs when eligible outlets are not included on the frame and is a much more serious deficiency than over-coverage. Under-coverage requires a separate survey. The purpose of the Synar coverage survey is to estimate the under-coverage of the Pennsylvania Synar sampling frame.


Instruction Manual (PDF)

Details survey design, procedures, inspection protocol and data collection forms.

Electronic Collection Form (PDF)

Details the primary collection form used for the Synar survey.

Survey Design (PDF)

Details PA survey design.


Training PowerPoint (PDF)

PDF of the most current training PowerPoint.

Training Agenda (PDF)

PDF of the most current training agenda.

Training Recording

Recording of the most current training.

Other Links

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Synar Program

SAMHSA Annual Synar Report

Quitting Tobacco