Topeka Earlier this year, Kansas was taken to the woodshed for failing to keep minors from getting cigarettes.
But after implementing a $2.3 million program on increased education and enforcement, the state has gotten - just barely - into federal compliance for limiting tobacco products to minors.
"There is no better way to prevent future health problems such as cardiovascular disease and cancer than to keep young people from starting to smoke or chew tobacco in the first place," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said recently in announcing news of Kansas' improvement.
Earlier this year, Kansas officials learned that they had fallen out of compliance with a federal law that penalizes states financially if they sell tobacco to too many minors.
Kansas has had one of the worst records in the nation in this area.
But between October 2003 and September 2004 it got worse when merchants who were checked for tobacco-law compliance sold to minors 38 percent of the time - far above the target of 20 percent.
As a result, state leaders faced either losing $5 million in federal grant money that pays for substance abuse treatment and prevention, or providing $2.3 million over the next two years to address the problem.
You KAN Stop
For help in quitting smoking, call the Kansas Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-KAN-STOP (1-866-526-7867). The campaign Web site is www.itseverybodysbusiness.org.
That was money, had Kansas been in compliance, that could have been spent on social services for low-income Kansans.
State officials launched a campaign called "It's Everybody's Business" to provide retailers with free resources to educate their employees about Kansas law regarding tobacco sales to minors. In addition, prevention specialists trained retail clerks and managers, and print materials were provided to retailers to help stop illegal purchasing.
The result was that over the past 12 months, 562 tobacco retailer outlets across the state were checked to determine the state's compliance. Of those inspected, 19.2 percent were found not in compliance, just below the 20 percent guideline.
"This is a perfect example of how a public-private partnership can work," said Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Gary Daniels.
Each year, nearly 4,000 Kansans die from diseases directly linked to tobacco use, according to state officials.
Almost all first-time tobacco use occurs before high school graduation. Currently 29 percent of high school students report using at least one form of tobacco, according to the Kansas Youth Tobacco Survey.