Restricting Tobacco Sales Does Not Impact Youth Smoking, Study Finds
Enacting restrictions on the sale of tobacco products to minors does not prevent underage smoking, according to a new study. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that researchers at the University of California-San Francisco conducted a statistical analysis of eight studies that used "sting operations" to determine "how tough it was" for youths to purchase tobacco products. Those studies did not reveal a correlation between the level of restrictions and the percentage of smokers in a given community. "The evidence is convincing that youth access programs did not decrease youth smoking," UCSF researchers Caroline Fichtenberg and Stanton Glantz write in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics. In fact, such control methods could "backfire" because they could give youth smokers the sense that they are adults, they said. Other studies have found that teenagers get around restrictions on purchasing cigarettes in stores through such tactics as using fake IDs, shoplifting, buying from vending machines and having older people buy them (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/3). Due to the expense of access control programs and the limited resources available for tobacco control, the study said anti-tobacco advocates should dedicate resources toward "interventions with proven effectiveness" (Fichtenberg/Glantz, Pediatrics, June 2002). Such strategies include higher taxes on tobacco products and media campaigns, Fichtenberg and Glantz wrote. But Leonard Jason of DePaul University said that restricting access to tobacco "could deter nonsmokers from starting." Janet Williams of the Cook County, Ill., Public Health Department added, "The tobacco industry fought hard against youth access laws. If the laws are so ineffective, why is the industry fighting them?" (Chicago Sun-Times, 6/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.