Unexpected Factors Strengthen Laws Banning Tobacco Sales to Kids

Study of youth access to tobacco law enforcement practices in communities across 50 states

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.