Restricted Access to Cigarettes and Fines for Possession Reduce Underage Smoking

Effects of tobacco enforcement and possession laws on youth smoking rates

Leonard A. Jason, PhD, 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) (for more information see Program Results).

Key Findings: 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.

Key Conclusions: 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.