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Health Educ Res. 2008 Aug;23(4):709-22. Epub 2007 Oct 18.

Do local tobacco regulations influence perceived smoking norms? Evidence from adult and youth surveys in Massachusetts.

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CNU Associates, Lincoln, MA 01773, USA.


Smoking behavior has been shown to be influenced by individuals' perceptions of social norms about smoking. This study examines whether local regulations regarding clean indoor air and youth access to tobacco are associated with residents' subsequent perceptions of smoking norms. Data came from Massachusetts surveys of adults and youths and from records of local tobacco control policies. Indices of perceived smoking norms were based on perceived smoking prevalence and perceived community acceptance of smoking. Multilevel models tested the association between perceived norms and the presence of strong local regulations in four policy domains (restaurant smoking bans, smoking restrictions in other venues, enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to youths and youth-oriented marketing restrictions). The model controlled for town voting results on a tobacco tax referendum, which served as a measure of antismoking sentiment pre-dating the regulations. Results showed that youths perceived community norms to be significantly more 'antismoking' if they lived in a town that had strong regulations in at least three of the four domains. For adults, having strong regulations in as few as one to two domains was associated with perceiving community norms to be significantly more antismoking. Implementing and publicizing local regulations may help shape perceptions of community smoking norms.

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