States and municipalities are increasingly restricting tobacco sales to those under age-21, in an effort to reduce youth and young adult smoking. A recently published study examined the effectiveness of such policies. Researchers analyzed 2011 – 2016 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends dataset.
· Current smoking rates fell from 16.5 percent in 2011 to 8.9 percent in 2016 among 18-20 year-olds in these data.
· A tobacco-21 policy covering one’s entire metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas (MMSA) yields an approximately 3.1 percentage point reduction in 18 to 20 year-olds’ likelihoods of smoking.
· Accounting for partial policy exposure – tobacco-21 laws implemented in some but not all jurisdictions within an MMSA implies that the average exposed 18 to 20 year-old experienced a 1.2 percentage point drop in their likelihood of being a smoker.
The researchers concluded that local tobacco-21 policies yield a substantive reduction in smoking among 18 to 20 year-olds living in metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. This finding provides empirical support for efforts to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 as a means to reduce young adult smoking. Moreover, it suggests that state laws preempting local tobacco-21 policies may impede public health.
Source: Friedman & Wu (2019). Do Local Tobacco-21 Laws Reduce Smoking among 18 to 20 Year-Olds? Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Jul 26. pii: ntz123. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntz123. [Epub ahead of print]