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Tough Laws, Higher Prices Mean Fewer Kids Smoke
Date:4/16/2009

Study finds that enforcing existing laws cuts rate by 21 percent

THURSDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- American adolescents who live in states that comply with tobacco sales laws are less likely to pick up a smoking habit than are those who live where the laws are not vigorously enforced, a new study has found.

And raising the price of a pack of cigarettes might have an equal, if not greater, effect, the study also showed.

"Efforts to prevent the sale of tobacco to children pay off," said study author Dr. Joseph R. DiFranza, a professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "It's very effective at reducing the number of kids who smoke."

Since 1992, states have been required to prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco to minors. But in 1996, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a regulation that, in essence, put some teeth into the legislation that requires states to pass and enforce so-called no-sale laws.

Though there has been some debate about the effectiveness of the congressional mandate, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that enforcing existing laws reduces the number of adolescent smokers.

DiFranza and his colleagues analyzed data from a 2003 survey of 16,244 adolescents, nearly all 15 to 17 years old, to obtain information on smoking habits. In addition, they looked at state-collected data on merchants' compliance with anti-tobacco laws. Then they correlated the data, taking into account such factors as cigarette prices, restaurant smoking policies, anti-smoking campaigns and demographic information that included age, gender, race, ethnicity and parents' education level.

The researchers found that, as merchants more diligently enforced the ban on tobacco sales to minors and as the price of cigarettes rose, the likelihood of teens smoking dropped.

Improved compliance
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