California Merchants Need More Motivation to Reduce Tobacco Sales to Minors

North Bay Health Resources Center, Petaluma, Calif., project studied 15 northern California communities to assess the effectiveness of a policy-based, community-driven deterrence strategy to increase merchant perception of risk, influence store owners and clerks to obey state tobacco sales laws, and reduce illegal tobacco sales to minors through retail outlets.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program.

Key Findings

  • Merchant perception of risk increased over time, but not at a significantly greater rate in the intervention communities.
  • The proportion of stores posting required warning signs increased slightly in intervention communities.
  • The proportion of stores non-compliant with one or more ordinance provisions declined significantly from baseline in intervention communities, and increased in the non-intervention communities.
  • There were no statistically significant effects of the intervention on the rate of identification checking by clerks or the illegal sale of tobacco to minors.
  • The lack of consistent enforcement reduced a community's ability to mobilize effectively around the enactment of a tobacco control ordinance.