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Tobacco Laws for Minors May Cut Adult Smoking as Well

Posted June 19, 2013

Strict controls on the sale of cigarettes to youth may also reduce adult smoking, a new study suggests.

States with tighter restrictions on the sale of cigarettes to teens also had lower adult smoking rates, especially among women, researchers found. These states also tended to have fewer adult heavy smokers.

“In most states for many years, it has been illegal to sell cigarettes to people under 18, but few provisions are in place to prevent those sales,” study first author Richard Grucza, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release. “This study shows that more restrictive policies can prevent teen smoking and be beneficial down the road.”

He and his colleagues examined 1998 to 2007 data from more than 105,000 people, aged 18 to 34, involved in an ongoing U.S. National Cancer Institute survey that monitors smoking behavior throughout the country. They looked at whether people had ever smoked, whether they were current smokers and, if they did smoke, whether they smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day.

The researchers focused on nine smoking-related policies. In states with stricter rules and enforcement, 17-year-olds had more difficulty buying cigarettes and were less likely to smoke when they were in their 20s and 30s, according to the study published online June 13 in the American Journal of Health.

“We estimated that if all states had effective policies in place, it would reduce the prevalence of smoking by about 14 percent and the rates of heavy smoking by 29 percent,” Grucza said.

The study found that the following were the four most effective restrictions:

  • Eliminating cigarette vending machines or placing them in locations inaccessible to those under 18
  • ID requirements for purchasing cigarettes
  • Restrictions on repackaging cigarettes to prevent five or 10 being sold at a time, rather than the whole 20-cigarette pack
  • Banning distribution of free cigarettes at public events

“A lot of states still have not adopted all of these policies. In 2006, which is the last year for which we have data, only four states required a photo ID, and only 20 states had any kind of identification requirements at all. So there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Grucza noted.

However, as more states implement and enforce more restrictive antismoking policies, there may be further reductions in smoking rates, he added.

Source: Washington University School of Medicine, via HealthDay

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