Study: Tobacco 21 Laws Show Success in Curbing Young Adult Smoking

MSN | Gaby Galvin | July 26, 2019

Banning tobacco sales to those under 21 years old helps curb smoking among young people newly affected by the age limits, a new analysis indicates.

The study, published by the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that between 2011 and 2016, localities that had raised the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 saw what amounted to a 10% decline, on average, in smoking rates among 18- to 20-year-olds.

“Tobacco 21” policies have gained traction in recent years as the share of teenagers who use e-cigarettes has surged, eroding previous declines in youth tobacco use. In 2018, about 21% of U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes, up from 11.3% in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all, 18 states and hundreds of localities have enacted Tobacco 21 rules, while legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to push the restriction nationwide. The new study says that while local Tobacco 21 policies result in a “substantive reduction” in smoking among 18- to 20-year-olds, wider state-level restrictions could have an even greater effect.

“Smoking is responsible for over 400,000 deaths in the United States alone every year, with the vast majority of smokers initiating use before age 21,” Abigail Friedman, the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, said in a statement. “Our analysis indicates that tobacco-21 laws are an effective way to reduce such take-up, even when they are implemented at the local level.”

Researchers used federal survey data to assess smoking rates among 18- to 20-year-olds and 23- to 25-year-olds living in metropolitan and micropolitan areas in 44 states and the nation’s capital, with some areas excluded for reasons such as a change in local cigarette taxes during the time period analyzed.

In areas at least partially covered by Tobacco 21 rules, the average 18- to 20-year-old saw an up to 1.2 percentage-point decline in their likelihood of being a smoker compared with their peers in areas without such a ban, according to study estimates. If an entire area was covered by a Tobacco 21 policy, the likelihood would fall by up to 3.1 percentage points.

Tobacco 21 rules “may influence smoking through a variety of mechanisms, including access to cigarettes, attitudes towards smoking, and/or consequent peer effects,” the study said.

Researchers didn’t note the same trend among 23- to 25-year-olds, who would not have been affected by Tobacco 21 policies when they were younger.

“Given the addictiveness and health consequences of cigarette smoking, this finding supports such policies’ implementation as a means to promote public health,” the study says.

Copyright 2019 U.S. News & World Report

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on August 20, 2019