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Am J Community Psychol. 1999 Apr;27(2):143-60.

Effects of enforcement of youth access laws on smoking prevalence.

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Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois 60614, USA.


Smoking is the primary preventable cause of death, and yet 3,000 adolescents become smokers each day. Most adult smokers begin this deadly habit when they are under the age of 18, which is the minimum legal age for the purchase of cigarettes. The majority of adolescent smokers are able to purchase cigarettes even though laws prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors. In the late 1980s, Woodridge, IL, became one of the first towns in the nation to demonstrate a significant reduction in the ability of youth to purchase cigarettes. Almost 2 years after passage of this legislation, the percentage of regular smokers among 7th- and 8th-grade students had been reduced from 16 to 5%. Seven-year follow-up data in a sample of high school youths indicate that youths living in communities with regular enforcement had significantly less smoking than those living in communities without regular enforcement. In particular, rates of regular smoking were 8.1% in communities with regular enforcement versus 15.5% in communities without regular enforcement. It is possible that adolescents who had restricted access to tobacco products were less likely to become regular smokers. These findings have important public health implications, particularly in light of recent federal legislation mandating that all states develop programs to reduce access of youth to tobacco products.

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