Laws Banning Tobacco Sales to Minors Don't Work

Data shows kids still get cigarettes in other ways

FRIDAY, June 2, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Laws that prevent the sale of tobacco to minors are good in theory, but a new Swiss study suggests they actually do very little to keep kids from smoking.

Many minors find a way to beat the laws, often by asking friends or family members who can buy cigarettes legally to purchase them on their behalf.

"In an authoritarian move, many states in the U.S. enacted laws that prohibit youth to possess, use or purchase tobacco, called PUP laws," study author Jean-Francois Etter, of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Geneva, said in a prepared statement. Those who supported these laws "neglected to evaluate scientifically their positive and negative consequences," Etter said, adding that "there is no evidence that PUP laws decrease smoking prevalence among minors."

The study was based on reviews of all other studies already published on this issue. Most of these studies were conducted in the United States, primarily because all states have been required by law since 1992 to create laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 18.

"The review showed that laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors are widespread, but that there is little evidence that they have any impact on smoking rates among youth," said Etter. The study showed "no effect of sales prohibitions on tobacco use by minors, at any level of compliance by retailers."

The study is published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"I agree with Dr. Etter that current approaches to prevent underage cigarette sales are a dismal failure, largely due to a lack of political will to enact meaningful and practical laws and sensible enforcement strategies," Arnold H. Levinson, director of the Tobacco Program Evaluation Group at the University of Colorado/AMC Cancer Research Center in Lakewood, said in a prepared statement. "I also agree that laws alone will not solve the problem of adolescent smoking," he said.

"As long as cigarettes are a legal, over-the-counter product, keeping kids from smoking will require a large, multi-strategy effort. There's still no good science to say we should abandon tobacco sales laws and enforcement," added Levinson.

More information

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids offers more information on kids and smoking.

Diana Kohnle

Diana Kohnle

Updated on June 02, 2006

Read this Next
About UsOur ProductsCustom SolutionsHow it’s SoldOur ResultsDeliveryContact UsBlogPrivacy PolicyFAQ