From 1996 to 1997, staff at Battelle Memorial Institute, Baltimore, carried out 10 in-depth ethnographic studies that supplemented a study of vendor compliance with laws restricting minors' access to tobacco conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–Office on Smoking and Health.
The ethnographic studies were intended to provide a better understanding of the community-level factors affecting the use of tobacco by minors in 10 of the 20 communities covered by the vendor compliance study.
- Communities gave lower priority to tobacco addiction than to problems affecting adolescents such as violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
- Multiple organizations and institutions were involved in preventing children from beginning to use tobacco in each of the study sites.
- Local affiliates of national voluntary health organizations were a very important source of materials, programs, and expertise for public and private tobacco control agencies at the local level.
- Local tobacco control coalitions, found in six of the ten communities, played a role in both legislative and grassroots advocacy.
- Tobacco education was present in all schools, but was usually one part of a brief substance abuse section in a crowded health education curriculum.
- Smoking was prohibited in school buildings, on school grounds in all sites, and at school-related activities in all but one site, but only three sites designated areas around schools as smoke-free.