Restricted Access to Cigarettes and Fines for Possession Reduce Underage Smoking
Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D., led a team of researchers from DePaul University that studied whether restricting minors' access to cigarettes and fining them for possessing tobacco products have a significant influence on their rates of smoking, and whether younger people are more influenced by these policies than older minors.
The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).
Jason and his team found that:
- The percentage of youth who use tobacco increases as they get older.
- The combination of restricting access and imposing fines for possession reduces the rate of increase.
- Higher levels of retail tobacco availability were associated with whether youth initiated smoking but not whether they continued smoking.
Researchers concluded from the study that:
- Public health interventions that involve police fining minors along with high merchant compliance rates might decrease rates of tobacco use of white youth.
RWJF provided a grant of $353,662 from December 1998 through May 2002 to support this project.
Despite more than two decades of national and local prevention programs, the prevalence of youth tobacco use remains high. According to findings from the 1999 Youth Tobacco Survey that the Legacy Foundation conducted, 9.2 percent of sixth to eighth grade students, and 28.4 percent of ninth to 12th grade students, reported smoking cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey.
Research on tobacco-control policies suggests that youth access to tobacco may play an important role in whether adolescents start or continue smoking.
With a grant from RWJF under its Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, Jason and a team of researchers at DePaul University evaluated whether restricting access to retail sources of tobacco and fining minors for possession of tobacco products affected rates of teenage smoking.
Researchers worked with police officials and school staff in 15 schools located in eight towns in Illinois. In four of the participating towns, police officials enforced tobacco sales laws through regular compliance checks at retail outlets; in the other four towns police enforced tobacco sales laws and also issued citations to minors in possession of tobacco.
For each year of the project, researchers surveyed sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the 15 schools in the eight towns to determine smoking prevalence. Researchers also collected information regarding tobacco sales to minors in the towns.
Jason, the principal investigator, reported the following findings in a report to RWJF and in published journal articles:
- The percentage of youth who use tobacco increases with age, but the combination of enforcing tobacco sales laws (such as making regular compliance checks at stores) and tobacco possession laws (such as handing out citations to minors possessing tobacco) reduced the rate of this increase.
- White youth who live in communities that strictly enforce both tobacco sales and tobacco possession laws have significantly lower increases in tobacco use than white youth living in communities that only enforced tobacco sales laws. This finding did not hold up for non-white youth.
- Living with an adult who smokes, having more peer tobacco users, being older and being male were all associated with higher odds that youth would initiate smoking. Only the presence of an adult tobacco user in the home and the number of peers who use tobacco were associated with increased odds that a youth continued smoking.
- Youth who were older, male, had an adult tobacco user in the home and had more peers who use tobacco were more likely to initiate smoking.
- The strongest predictor of selling cigarettes illegally to minors was clerks' failure to ask a minor for age or identification.
Project staff noted the following limitations to the study:
- There was a four-month delay between collecting student self-reports of tobacco use and the analysis of tobacco availability. If there were efforts by local police departments to enforce tobacco sales laws during those four months, tobacco availability could have been reduced.
- Because only 10 towns participated in this study, there was limited opportunity to detect small or moderate changes.
- The study did not follow youth over time, so it is impossible to make conclusions about causality.
The principal investigator offered the following conclusion from the study:
- Public health interventions that involve police fining minors along with high merchant compliance rates might decrease the rates of white youth's tobacco use.
The researchers published articles in Critical Public Health, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment and the Journal of Drug Education, among others. See the Bibliography for details. A project summary and journal abstracts are available online.
- Researchers conducting multi-site interventions should allow sufficient time and project resources to assess each community's readiness for change. Researchers should make the effort to determine whether community officials have had prior experience with researchers, whether they have adequate resources to implement the intervention and whether the political and social climates are receptive to interventions and evaluations. (Project Director/Jason)
- Researchers should devote time to build trusting relationships with community representatives who will be involved with or interested in the research. The success of this study depended upon participation by police chiefs, some of whom had little experience with research. In those cases, researchers focused on listening to the chiefs' concerns, soliciting their suggestions about how to monitor merchant compliance with tobacco sales laws and providing feedback that the chiefs perceived as useful. (Project Director/Jason)
AFTER THE GRANT
The principal investigator received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue this research in 24 communities over four years. The research also covered youth attitudes towards tobacco sales and possession laws, as well as their efficacy. The researchers published findings in the Journal of Drug Education (37(4): 393400, 2007). (Abstract available online.) Among the findings:
- After one year, 39 percent of the children who indicated they had received a ticket for tobacco use or possession reported a 30-day abstinence from smoking.
- There was a strong correlation between 30-day abstinence and grade level: 84 percent of seventh-grade students reported being smoke-free in the past 30 days, compared to 35 percent of eighth-grade students, 32 percent of ninth-grade students and 21 percent of tenth-grade students.
- Children who had smoked in the past 30 days were less likely to view tobacco sales and possession laws favorably. They were also less likely to believe that such laws were effective in reducing youth tobacco use.
The researchers noted that the conclusions were consistent with their previous findings, both in suggesting that the enforcement of youth possession laws may reduce youth tobacco use, and in supporting the claim that younger children are more easily influenced by such laws.
The researchers expect to produce further manuscripts for publication in 2008 and 2009.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Effects of Tobacco Enforcement and Possession Laws on Youth Smoking Rates
DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Dates: December 1998 to May 2002
Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D.
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Jason LA and Pokorny SB (eds.). Preventing Youth Access to Tobacco. New York: Haworth Press, 2003.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Schoeny M, Curie CJ and Townsend SM. "Accurately Estimating Age: Implications for Controlling Youth Access to Tobacco." In Advances in Psychology Research, Volume 9, Shohov SP (ed.). New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2001.
Curie CJ, Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Schoeny ME and Townsend SM. "An Examination of Factors Influencing Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 6174, 2002.
Engstrom M, Jason LA, Townsend SM, Pokorny SB and Curie CJ. "Community Readiness for Prevention: Applying Stage Theory to Multi-Community Interventions." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 2946, 2002.
Jason LA, Curie CJ, Townsend SM, Pokorny SB, Katz RB and Sherk JL. "Health Promotion Interventions." Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 24(1/2): 6782, 2002.
Jason LA, Engstrom MD, Pokorny SB, Tegart G and Curie CJ. "Putting the Community Back into Prevention: Think Locally, Act Globally." Journal of Primary Prevention, 21(1): 2529, 2000.
Jason LA, Katz R, Pokorny SB, Engstrom M, Tegart G and Curie C. "The Relationship Between Youth Tobacco Control Enforcement and Crime Rates in a Midwestern County." American Journal of Health Promotion, 14(4): 229231, 2000. Abstract available online.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB, Adams M, Hunt Y, Gadiraju P and Schoeny M. "Do Fines for Violating Possession-Use-Purchase Laws Reduce Youth Tobacco Use?" Journal of Drug Education, 37(4): 393400, 2007. Abstract available online.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB, Curie CJ and Townsend SM. "Introduction: Preventing Youth Access to Tobacco." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 113, 2002.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB and Katz R. "Passive Versus Active Consent: A Case Study in School Settings." Journal of Community Psychology, 29(1): 5368, 2001.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB, Kunz C and Adams M. "Maintenance of Community Change: Enforcing Youth Access to Tobacco Laws." Journal of Drug Education, 34(2): 105119, 2004. Abstract available online.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB, Mikulski K and Schoeny M. "Assessing Storefront Tobacco Advertising after the Billboard Ban." Evaluation and the Health Professions, 27(1): 2233, 2004. Abstract available online.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB and Schoeny ME. "A Response to the Critiques of Tobacco Sales and Tobacco Possession Laws." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 8593, 2002.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB and Schoeny ME. "Evaluating the Effects of Enforcement and Fines on Youth Smoking." Critical Public Health, 13(1): 3345, 2003.
Jason LA, Pokorny SB, Sherk JL, Helzing DM and Rebus PJ. "Selling Tobacco to Minors: Can Merchants Accurately Determine a Customer's Age?" Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 8(4): 6773, 2004.
Ji PY, Pokorny SB, Blaszkowski E, Jason LA and Rabin-Belyaev O. "Examining Risks for Minors Participating in Tobacco Purchase Attempts." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 7583, 2002.
Pokorny SB, Engstrom MD, Curie C and Jason LA. "On Shaping Youth Access Policy: Lessons from the Field." Community Psychologist, 33: 3336, 2000.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Helzing DM, Sherk J, Rebus PJ, Kunz C, Rabin-Belyaev O, Ostergaard A, Mikulski K and Ji PY. "Efficient and Effective Uses of Technology in Community Research." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 29(1/2): 727, 2005.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA and Schoeny ME. "The Relation of Retail Tobacco Availability to Initiation and Continued Cigarette Smoking." Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32(2): 193204, 2003. Abstract available online.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA and Shoeny ME. "Current Smoking among Young Adolescents: Assessing School-Based Contextual Norms." Tobacco Control, 13(3): 301307, 2004. Abstract available online.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Schoeny M, Curie CJ and Townsend SM. "Eliminating Invalid Self-Report Survey Data." Psychological Reports, 89(1): 166168, 2001. Abstract available online.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Schoeny ME, Townsend SM and Curie CJ. "Do Participation Rates Change When Active Consent Procedures Replace Passive Consent." Evaluation Review, 25(5): 567580, 2001. Abstract available online.
Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Lautenschlager H, Smith R and Townsend SM. "Measuring the Quality of Laws Limiting Youth Access to Tobacco." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 1527, 2002.
Townsend SM, Pokorny SB, Jason LA, Curie CJ and Schoeny ME. "An Assessment of the Relationship Between the Quality of School-Based Tobacco Prevention Programs and Youth Tobacco Use." Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 24(1): 4760, 2002.
"Youth Tobacco Access Project Student Survey," Leonard Jason and Steven Pokorny, developed 19992000.
World Wide Web Sites
http://condor.depaul.edu/~ljason/smoking. "Youth Tobacco Access Research Team" on the DePaul University Web site provides information about this project, publications, assessment instruments and links to related tobacco-prevention Web sites.
Report prepared by: Barbara Matacera Barr
Reviewed by: Mary Nakashian
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Victor A. Capoccia
Program Officer: C. Tracy Orleans