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Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Jan;9 Suppl 1:S57-64.

Tobacco possession, use, and purchase laws and penalties in Minnesota: enforcement, tobacco diversion programs, and youth awareness.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.


State youth access laws often include restrictions for minor possession, use, or purchase of tobacco (PUP). The Minnesota PUP law allows cited youth to attend a tobacco diversion program in lieu of fines. We surveyed county attorneys in all counties (N = 87), tobacco diversion program coordinators (N = 47), and adolescents (N = 3,377) to assess PUP enforcement level, tobacco diversion program quality, and youth awareness of and experience with PUP laws and penalties. Although almost all county attorneys reported enforcement of the law, mean citation rates were low (9.3/1,000 youth) but somewhat higher in counties with tobacco diversion programs than in counties without such programs. Program coordinators also reported low attendance (Mdn = 30 adolescents per year per program). Almost 70% of classes were 2 h or less, and just 21.3% included multiple sessions; little variation in program approach or materials was observed, nor did programs meet criteria recommended for effective smoking cessation programs in this population. Overall, 59% of adolescents (79% among smokers) reported having heard of adolescents being caught by police or at school for smoking. Smoking prevalence was lower in counties with tobacco diversion programs than in counties without such programs (11.6% vs. 14.6%; adjusted OR = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.6-1.1). Receipt of a citation and attendance in a special class were more commonly reported among past-month smokers who lived in counties with tobacco diversion programs; the association for class attendance reached statistical significance. Our adolescent data provide some support for PUP laws as a potential tobacco control strategy, yet low citation rates and attendance in diversion programs of limited scope reduce the likelihood of detecting any benefit associated with this approach.

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