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California shows initial signs of T21 taking effect

First evaluation from CA

Last month, an evaluation team from the State of California released their first findings in compliance to the new law. The research article outlines the state’s process in passing and implementing their Tobacco 21 law. The authors also note that other articles evaluating the effectiveness of T21 are limited to a local lens. This study provides the first look at the effectiveness of statewide T21 laws.

Methods and Evidence

The research team utilized an effective logic model to identify activities and deliverables used in the process. They also included short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes of the policy. This study mainly focuses on short-term outcomes, given the short length of time available to conduct research.

Additionally, the researchers conducted polling related to tobacco products for retailers and adults. These polls give important information on the attitudes and perceptions of the law within the retailer and adult populations. While the adult survey was administered pre- and post-T21, the retailer survey was only conducted post-T21. Adult support for the law differs across demographics and is examined very closely in the ‘Discussion’ section of the article.

Most interesting about this research article are the Tobacco Purchase Surveys using minor operatives and decoys to check compliance with the law among sales to minors and sales to 18-20 year old age group. These surveys were non-enforcement-related checks and did not result in disciplinary action. However, the checks provide good evidence for the effectiveness of T21 and the inclusion of compliance checks in a robust enforcement program.

Decrease in sales to minors

Data from compliance checks for teens under 18 points towards a decrease in the availability and access of tobacco products. The research shows a significant decline in illegal sales to teens 15-16 years old and notes the first significant decline in the survey data since 2009. This decline is attributed to the short-term effectiveness of T21.

This data is a strong representation of the retail environment, however, we are still waiting on tobacco use data from California State surveys. The article notes that the survey data may not yield results because the elapsed time between data collection pre- and post-T21 implementation was too short.

Importance of evaluation

In public health, our practice is informed through theory and evidence of strong policies. In the case of T21, the theory and rationale is solid. However, there is still a need for strong evaluation data supporting the theories behind this policy. This will increase the evidence base and improve momentum among many state legislatures. The continuation of research and evaluation like that being conducted in California is key to the success of T21 laws.

Washington State Department of Health – Why 21?

The Washington State Department of Health highlights a few of the many reasons to raise the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to 21 in this short video.

Truth Initiative backs T21

“Truth Initiative® strongly supports raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 as part of a strong tobacco control policy program.”

Truth® is one of the most prevalent tobacco control groups in the United States. Established in 1999, Truth® takes a unique stance on the tobacco use epidemic by focusing on media influence among youth and young adults. We are happy to see their fervent support of tobacco 21 policies. In their statement, published on, they point out many important justifications behind raising the minimum legal sales age.

A system of policies

T21 must have companion policies to work effectively. This point is very important; no one law can solve the pervasiveness of tobacco use. Tobacco is present in our day-to-day lives through many different avenues. Media influence in movies and TV shows, point of sale (POS) advertising and now e-cigarette advertising all contribute to this presence.

Truth® notes that many different angles are effective at strengthening the system of tobacco control policies, especially among localities. Price control, POS advertising restrictions, smoke free environments, and media campaigns are all useful tools. Additionally, Truth® stresses the importance of placing the onus of responsibility on the retailer rather than buyer.

Enforcement that works

While Truth’s support document points towards many concepts related to Tobacco Retail Licensing, they do not offer this as a suggestion for local innovation. At the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, we believe heavily in the importance of TRL, especially at the local level. A TRL can be easily amended to include important provisions such as flavor bans, retailer distance requirements, and compliance checks. Licensing is a powerful tool for localities to improve the effectiveness of their youth access laws. Check out our Enforcement Memo for more information on retail licensing of tobacco products in your city or town.

Make sure to visit the Truth Initiative’s website and check out the great resources they have to offer for your tobacco prevention efforts!

Vermont periodontist publishes commentary on T21

Journalism working to find the truth

A project of The Vermont Journalism Trust,, published a commentary on Tobacco 21 last week. The commentary is in favor of raising the MLSA and highlights a number of reasons (21) to implement this life-saving policy.

A doctor’s point of view

Dr. Nevin Zablotsky, a retired periodontist, writes from an educated point of view on tobacco’s harmful effects. As a dentist who specializes in prevention and a senior consultant on tobacco issues for a dental school, Dr. Zablotsky’s commentary holds much weight in this discussion.

Thank you to Dr. Zablotsky for using this stage to hold the legislature accountable and shine a light on Tobacco 21. Read more below on these 21 reasons to pass Tobacco 21, not only in Vermont, but across the country!

Cook County Public Health Tobacco 21 page

Local Health Department Support

Cook County Department of Public Health has created a webpage for their Tobacco 21 initiatives. They highlight the benefits of raising the Minimum Legal Sales Age and provide other useful resources. CCDPH created a useful factsheet, multiple social media posts, and a creative infographic to use in your local T21 efforts, whether they are in Cook County or another locality.

Informing the larger Public Health movement

The Cook County Department of Public Health is also promoting their Healthy HotSpot initiative. Healthy HotSpot is a community partnership between CCDPH and multiple organizational partners. Healthy HotSpot includes natural areas, schools, local businesses, faith based communities, healthcare providers, and more.

A useful map has been created to show what areas in Cook County are included in these different categories of the Healthy HotSpot initiative. Many of the categories include tobacco control measures, focusing on smoke-free areas and increasing the minimum legal sales age.

This webpage is a valuable resource for advocates looking to expand the impact of T21 in Cook County and beyond. Currently, there are 4 localities in Cook County that have passed a T21 ordinance. Check out our locality list to see what communities in your state have raised the sales age.

We urge everyone to take a look at the CCDPH’s great work at the link below!

5 days ago


Bolingbrook, Illinois is the latest community to adopt a T21 ordinance!

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Bolingbrook, Illinois is the latest community to adopt a T21 ordinance!

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Comment on Facebook

wont stop anything they will just go to the next closest place the will sell it to them

So let's get this straight at 18 I'm old enough to give my life for my country and its freedoms... but I'm not free or old enough to choose the freedom of smoking cigarettes if I want...shameful...

So 21 is the new age to be an adult? The juvenile homes are about to have a lot more inmates.

Bahaha. Yes kids, it's ok to die for your country, but god forbid you wanna smoke

Stupid.. poor kids

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1 week ago


"If we can prevent people under 21 from starting...then we can really reduce the number of young people who are becoming addicted"

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If we can prevent people under 21 from starting...then we can really reduce the number of young people who are becoming addicted

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Comment on Facebook

We do it with liquor. Why not tobacco?