Youth Access Tobacco Possession, Purchase, and Use Laws: Measures of State and Local Enforcement


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Research Papers

Youth Access Tobacco Possession, Purchase, and Use Laws: Measures of State and Local Enforcement

Tworek C, Giovino G, Cummings KM, Hyland A, Chaloupka FJ

Cigarettes continue to be the tobacco of choice among youth, and many tobacco control policies have been aimed at preventing and reducing youth tobacco use. Youth access laws are designed to prohibit minors from accessing tobacco products, and also to simultaneously reduce both the supply of tobacco and the availability of tobacco products to minors. Youth access possession, use, and purchase (PUP) laws target minors for illegally possessing, using, and/or purchasing tobacco products. PUP laws have sharply increased over the past few decades, and have been controversial as a means to reduce youth tobacco use. This research study collected data on the enforcement of youth access PUP laws at the state level, and developed index measures of enforcement for PUP state-level laws.  This study has also utilized local-level possession enforcement data to construct a measure of local possession enforcement. State measures of PUP enforcement and the local measure of possession enforcement will provide useful data to better understand and study the effectiveness of PUP laws, and their relationship to youth smoking behavior and attitudes. Findings showed that PUP state possession laws had the highest enforcement, while state purchase laws had the lowest mean enforcement scores. Possession ordinances were the most common local-level PUP laws, while purchase ordinances were the least common. A majority of PUP enforcement was found to occur in local areas. State and local possession scores were not highly or significantly correlated; however, local possession laws did have higher enforcement scores than state possession laws, relative to their scales of enforcement. Findings support previous research that most PUP enforcement occurs for local-level possession laws, with great variation among communities. PUP enforcement measures can be incorporated into larger studies related to youth smoking behavior and attitudes.  These studies can assess the effectiveness of PUP laws, incorporating measures of enforcement, and contribute to the knowledgebase of these frequently enacted and seldom evaluated tobacco control policies.

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