Enforcement of Underage Sales Laws as a Predictor of Daily Smoking Among Adolescents

A National Study

In 1996, the federal government mandated that states enforce laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors. This research assesses whether increased enforcement helped lower the rate of smoking among youths.

The authors used the Monitoring the Future survey to analyze 1997–2003 data on  merchant compliance and smoking rates among minors. The Monitoring the Future survey includes a nationally-representative sample of 15,244 adolescents.

Key Findings:

  • Improved merchant compliance resulted in a 21 percent reduction in the likelihood that a 10th grader would smoke in 2003, after adjusting for media campaigns, price changes and other restrictions. 
  • For every 1 percent improvement in merchant compliance, daily smoking rates among 10th graders dropped by 2 percent.

Improved enforcement of smoking prohibitions appears to have substantially contributed to the decline in smoking rates among adolescents since 1997.