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Nicotine Replacement Products Within Reach of Minors

Study finds it's easy for teens to buy products that are not for sale to youths

MONDAY, March 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A 15-year-old girl taking part in a study was able to buy over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy products such as gum and patches in more than 80 percent of her purchase attempts, even though the products have labels stating they're not for sale to anyone under age 18.

In this University of Tennessee Health Science Center study, researchers had the girl go to 165 retail stores, drug stores and grocery stores in Memphis and try to buy nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products.

The researchers told the girl not to lie about her age. She carried no identification indicating her age. An adult researcher, who entered the stores separately from the girl and had no contact with her or sales clerks, observed the girl's attempts to purchase NRT.

The girl was able to buy NRT in 81 percent of her purchase attempts. She wasn't questioned about her age in 79 percent of the purchase attempts. The study found that if a clerk asked the girl her age, she was much less likely to be allowed to buy NRT.

The study appears in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Our study demonstrates that most purchases of NRT were obtained by a minor buyer without proof of age, despite warnings printed on the product. Given these findings, we conclude that the FDA-approved product labeling has little effect on actual sales practice. However, health practitioners recommending NRT to adolescent smokers attempting to quit should consider potential barriers to youth access," the study authors write.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on how nicotine affects the brain.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 1, 2004
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