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Do Local Tobacco-21 Laws Reduce Smoking among 18 to 20 Year-Olds?

States and municipalities are increasingly restricting tobacco sales to those under age-21, in an effort to reduce youth and young adult smoking. However, the effectiveness of such policies remains unclear, particularly when implemented locally.

Analyses use 2011 – 2016 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends dataset. Difference-in-differences and triple-difference regressions estimate the relationship between local tobacco-21 policies and smoking among 18 to 20 year-olds living in MMSAs (metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas).

Current smoking rates fell from 16.5 percent in 2011 to 8.9 percent in 2016 among 18-20 year-olds in these data. Regressions indicate that a tobacco-21 policy covering one’s entire MMSA yields an approximately 3.1 percentage point reduction in 18 to 20 year-olds’ likelihoods of smoking [CI: -0.0548, -0.0063]. Accounting for partial policy exposure — tobacco-21 laws implemented in some but not all jurisdictions within an MMSA — this estimate implies that the average exposed 18 to 20 year-old experienced a 1.2 percentage point drop in their likelihood of being a smoker at interview relative to unexposed respondents of the same age, all else equal.

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.

While states and municipalities are increasingly restricting tobacco sales to under-21-year-olds, such policies’ effectiveness remains unclear, particularly when implemented locally. Using quasi-experimental methods, this paper provides what may be the first evidence that sub-state tobacco-21 laws reduce smoking among 18 to 20 year-olds. Specifically, considering metropolitan and micropolitan areas from 2011 to 2016, the average 18 to 20 year-old who was exposed to these policies exhibited a 1.2 percentage point drop in their likelihood of being a current established smoker, relative to those who were unexposed. These findings validate local tobacco-21 laws as a means to reduce young adult smoking.

Tobacco‐21 laws reducing youth and young adult smoking

To estimate the impact of tobacco‐21 laws on smoking among young adults who are likely to smoke, and consider potential social multiplier effects.


Quasi‐experimental, observational study using new 2016–17 survey data.

United States.

A total of 1869 18–22‐year‐olds who have tried a combustible or electronic cigarette.

Intervention and comparators
Tobacco‐21 laws raise the minimum legal sales age of cigarettes to 21 years. Logistic regressions compared the association between tobacco‐21 laws and smoking among 18–20‐year‐olds with that for 21–22‐year‐olds. The older age group served as a comparison group that was not bound by these restrictions, but could have been affected by correlated factors. Age 16 peer and parental tobacco use were considered as potential moderators.

Self‐reported recent smoking (past 30‐day smoking) and current established smoking (recent smoking and life‐time consumption of at least 100 cigarettes).

Exposure to tobacco‐21 laws yielded a 39% reduction in the odds of both recent smoking [odds ratio (OR) = 0.61; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.42, 0.89] and current established smoking (OR = 0.61; 95% CI = 0.39, 0.97) among 18–20‐year‐olds who had ever tried cigarettes. This association exceeded the policy’s relationship with smoking among 21–22‐year‐olds. For current established smoking, the tobacco‐21 reduction was amplified among those whose closest friends at age 16 used cigarettes (OR = 0.50; 95% CI = 0.29, 0.87), consistent with peer effects moderating the policy’s impact on young adult smoking.

Tobacco‐21 laws appear to reduce smoking among 18–20‐year‐olds who have ever tried cigarettes.

Strong tobacco retail licensing requirements reduce risk of teen e-cigarette use, study finds

(CNN)“Retail licensing requirements written with cigarettes in mind could be helping lower the risk of teenagers using other tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.

According to a study published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics, teens who live in areas with strong regulations could be at lower risk of tobacco use.
“We compared rates of tobacco product use among youth who lived in areas that had strong tobacco vendor licensing requirements … with rates in areas with weak retail licensing regulation,” Robert Urman, one of the authors of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, wrote in an email.
The jurisdictions that the 2,907 study participants lived in were graded on their tobacco retail licensing requirements, according to the American Lung Association Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products to Youth scale. Four jurisdictions received a grade of A, one received a D, and eight received an F.
The participants were part of the Southern California Children’s Health Study and had responded to questionnaires when they were in 11th and 12th grades. More than 1,500 completed follow-up questionnaires when they reached age 18.
“We found that youth living in areas with strong licensing requirements were less likely to begin using e-cigarettes and cigarettes during the one and a half year follow-up, on average, compared to youth who resided in areas with weaker regulations,” Urman said.
Nearly a third of the participants lived in areas where regulations received an A, and more than two-thirds lived in areas where regulations received a D or F.
In places that had strong retail licensing requirements, risks of tobacco product use were lower by one-third to one-half than in places with weaker requirements, the study said.
Teens who lived in the A-grade areas were less likely to start or to have smoked cigarettes and e-cigarettes than those who lived in areas with lower grades.
Participants in A-grade communities were 26% less likely to begin using e-cigarettes and 55% less likely to report initiation and use in the previous 30 days compared with those living in D or F communities, the study found.
Teens in A-grade jurisdictions also had lower risks of starting smoking between the first and second parts of the questionnaires.
To receive an A grade, areas needed to have annual license fees from all retailers that cover enforcement programs and compliance checks for each store, annual renewal of licenses, and provisions that any violation of a law is a violation of the license.
“Youth obtain their product, in part, through retail sales, and if you can do a good job of making sure that youth can’t buy through retailers, the implication is that communities that have that characteristic, that abide by the best standards for retail practices, will have lower rates of use” of all tobacco products, said Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics in the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University who was not involved in the new research.
Sargent believes that although retail licenses help, they are not the only things that need attention when it comes to reducing youth use of tobacco.
“To me, that’s one strategy, but the other issues are kids are obtaining product across the internet, they’re obtaining product from adults who buy the product and then resell it, so there’s a whole lot of practices through which youths obtain these tobacco products that wouldn’t be covered by that,” he said.
Sargent also believes that teens and youth seek out products because many e-cigarette products are designed — including their look, feel and taste — to appeal to a younger market.
“I think it’s important to think about retail and to think about ways to keep youths from getting tobacco products from retail, but we also have to shut down the online sale of these products,” he said. “It’s not so much cigarettes, it’s the e-cigarette products that are being sold online, and we have to find a way to keep adults from reselling these products to kids.”
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that vaping is on the rise in teens. There was a 78% increase in youth vaping between 2017 and 2018.
In September, the US Food and Drug Administration “announced a series of critical and historic enforcement actions related to the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to kids,” including warning letters and fines.”

Notes from the Field: Use of Electronic Cigarettes and Any Tobacco Product Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2018

Notes from the Field: Use of Electronic Cigarettes and Any Tobacco Product Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2018

Authors:  Karen A. Cullen, PhD1; Bridget K. Ambrose, PhD1; Andrea S. Gentzke, PhD2; Benjamin J. Apelberg, PhD1; Ahmed Jamal, MBBS2; Brian A. King, PhD2 (View author affiliations)

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that provide nicotine and other additives to the user in the form of an aerosol (1). E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace in 2007 (1), and by 2014, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youths (2). Data from the 2011–2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), a cross-sectional, voluntary, school-based, self-administered, pencil-and-paper survey of U.S. middle and high school students, were analyzed to determine the prevalence of current use (≥1 day in past 30 days) of e-cigarettes,* current use of any tobacco product, frequency of (number of days during the preceding 30 days) e-cigarette use, and current use (any time during preceding 30 days) of any flavored e-cigarettes among U.S. middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (grades 9–12) students. Logistic regression (2011–2018) and t-tests (2017–2018) were performed to determine statistically significant differences (p<0.05).

Among high school students, current e-cigarette use increased from 1.5% (220,000 students) in 2011 to 20.8% (3.05 million students) in 2018 (p<0.001) (Figure). During 2017–2018, current e-cigarette use increased by 78% (from 11.7% to 20.8%, p<0.001). The proportion of current e-cigarette users who reported use on ≥20 of the past 30 days increased from 20.0% in 2017 to 27.7% in 2018 (p = 0.008). Among high school students, during 2017–2018, current use of any flavored e-cigarettes increased among current e-cigarette users (from 60.9% to 67.8%, p = 0.02); current use of menthol- or mint-flavored e-cigarettes increased among all current e-cigarette users (from 42.3% to 51.2%, p = 0.04) and current exclusive e-cigarette users (from 21.4% to 38.1%, p = 0.002).

Among middle school students, current e-cigarette use increased from 0.6% in 2011 (60,000 students) to 4.9% (570,000 students) in 2018 (p<0.001) (Figure). During 2017–2018, current e-cigarette use increased by 48% (from 3.3% to 4.9%, p = 0.001); the proportion of current e-cigarette users who reported use on ≥20 days of the past 30 days did not significantly change (from 12.9% to 16.2%, p = 0.26).

Current use of any tobacco product among high school students was 24.2% (3.69 million students) in 2011 and 27.1% (4.04 million students) in 2018 (p>0.05) (Figure). Current use of any tobacco product among middle school students was 7.5% (870,000 students) in 2011 and 7.2% (840,000 students) in 2018 (p>0.05). During 2017–2018, overall tobacco product use increased by 38% among high school students (from 19.6% to 27.1%, p<0.001) and by 29% among middle school students (from 5.6% to 7.2%, p = 0.008).

Current e-cigarette use increased considerably among U.S. middle and high school students during 2017–2018, reversing a decline observed in recent years and increasing overall tobacco product use (3). Moreover, during 2017–2018, frequent e-cigarette use increased among high school students. Although e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers if used as a complete substitute for combustible tobacco smoking, the use of any form of tobacco product among youths, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe (1). The Surgeon General has concluded that e-cigarette use among youths and young adults is of public health concern; exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain (1).

The rise in e-cigarette use during 2017–2018 is likely because of the recent popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like a USB flash drive, such as JUUL; these products can be used discreetly, have a high nicotine content, and come in flavors that appeal to youths (4). In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued more than 1,300 warning letters and civil money penalty fines to retailers who illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors, the majority of which were blu, JUUL, Logic, MarkTen XL, and Vuse; this was the largest coordinated enforcement effort in FDA’s history (5). Sustained implementation of proven population-based strategies, in coordination with the regulation of tobacco products by FDA, is key to reducing all forms of tobacco product use and initiation, including e-cigarettes, among U.S. youths (1).

8 in 10 Support raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and vaping devices to 21

Last week, Texas Medical Center, in Houston released a nationwide survey that found:

-82 percent of Americans support preventing the sale of all tobacco products to people under the age of 21;
-80 percent of Americans support preventing the sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices to anyone under age 21;
-79 percent of Americans support limiting the amount of nicotine in tobacco products;
-65 percent of Americans support banning the use of candy and fruit flavorings in e-cigarettes and other vaping products;
-60 percent of Americans support banning the use of candy and fruit flavorings in cigars and cigarillos;
-60 percent of Americans support banning the use of menthol, a minty flavoring, in cigarettes; and
-52 percent of Americans support banning the sale of all tobacco products.

The relevant findings were based on a nationwide survey of more than 4,000 people.
See graphic of these statistics here: