How do Tobacco Laws and Density of Tobacco Stores Influence Youth Smoking?

A new study investigating the association between local tobacco policies, the density of tobacco sales outlets, and young people smoking was published by the Mentor Foundation recently. Researchers surveyed 1,491 US children (mean age 14.7 years) and found that those who lived in areas with many tobacco-licensed retail stores smoked more frequently.

There was no relationship between the strength of clean air laws and teen smoking. However, clean air policies did affect the relationship between tobacco outlet density and youth smoking. In cities with weak clean air laws, young people smoked more frequently in areas with many tobacco outlets. In areas with strong clean air laws, there was little relationship between tobacco outlet density and youth smoking. Researchers are cautious about ‘causation’, however, noting that cities with more smokers may demand more tobacco outlets, not that high numbers of outlets cause more smoking.

The results suggest both the control over the number of tobacco outlets and enforcement of the clean air policies as ways for preventing youth smoking.

“Environmental exposures play a huge role in the decisions we make and help define our social norms. It is important for coalitions to continue to shed light on the association between the number of tobacco retail outlets located in a concentrated area and the incidences of youth tobacco use. If we want our young people to make healthier choices, we must keep our attention towards reducing negative environmental exposures that encourage unhealthy behaviors,” said Alicia D. Smith, MPH, Project Manager, Tobacco Prevention Programs.

Population of focus: Adolescents

Links to resource:

Date: 2013

Organization: Mentor Foundation