The results appear online April 17 in the journal BMC Public Health.
"Cigarette smoking is a major contributor to many of the chronic diseases that we see in society today -- cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and other forms of cognitive decline and low birth weight," said Dr. Ted Schettler, science director at the Science & Environmental Health Network in Ames, Iowa. "And adolescent smoking increases the risk of lifelong smoking."
According to the American Lung Association, about 90 percent of smokers started before age 21, and an estimated 4.5 million U.S. adolescents smoke.
"Up until now, it's been controversial about whether all the effort put into enforcing the law has been worthwhile or not," DiFranza said. "Some people had made halfhearted efforts to obey the law, and those have not worked at reducing either the number of stores that sell tobacco to kids or the number of kids that smoke."
The finding from DiFranza's study mirrors that from a study published this month on the effect of laws targeting the sale of alcohol to minors.
In that study, states that had enacted more punitive laws -- including use-and-lose laws that allow the suspension of a driver's license for any underage alcohol violation and zero-tolerance laws that make it illegal for young people to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system -- had fewer drinking-related fatalities among teens than did states that did not have such laws. The results were published in the April 7 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"In the past, we've had success in reducing the number of teens who smoke by enforcing these laws in communities, but this is the first study
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