Perceived Accessibility of Cigarettes Among Youth

A Prospective Cohort Study

This article identifies factors that determine perceived accessibility of cigarettes among youth. It has been difficult to measure how easy it is for adolescents to obtain cigarettes due to the variety of potential sources, including peers, relatives and stores. 

The authors used data from the second Development and Assessment of Nicotine Dependence in Youth Study, a four-year longitudinal survey of 1,246 sixth-graders that began in 2002. The perceived accessibility of cigarettes was measured by whether the respondents agreed with the statement, “It would be easy for me to get a cigarette.”

Key Findings:

  • At age 12, 21 percent of respondents said that they could obtain a cigarette. This percentage increased over the four years of the survey.
  • Several factors increased the likelihood that a respondent believed that they could obtain a cigarette, including having family or friends who smoked or parents who allowed the respondent to watch R-rated movies. Nonsmokers who knew where cigarettes were sold also were more likely to believe that they could obtain a cigarette.

Further research is needed to identify whether changing the determinants of perceived accessibility results in changed perceptions, and whether changing perceived accessibility has an impact on smoking rates among youth.