Unexpected Factors Strengthen Laws Banning Tobacco Sales to Kids

From 1996 to 1998, investigators at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health conducted a comprehensive nationwide review of the extent to which states passed and enforced laws that restrict tobacco sales to youth. RWJF provided a $196,691 grant for the study.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

Key Findings

  • Most states have low rates of enforcement and enforcement efforts that do exist are more often directed at youth than at merchants.
  • Several factors appear to promote higher levels of enforcement:
    • State laws or local ordinances requiring licensing of tobacco vendors.
    • States in which state agencies monitor local enforcement activity.
    • The presence of a community crime-prevention unit in the local law enforcement agency.
    • States that receive ASSIST funding (American Stop Smoking Intervention Study for Cancer Prevention, jointly sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society).
    • States in which there is community pressure to take action on tobacco sales to youth.