State tobacco control policies may result in lower teen smoking rates
A preliminary state-by-state analysis suggests that state tobacco policies may have a measurable effect on teen smoking rates.
"To our knowledge this is the first time that a relationship has been empirically demonstrated between implemented state tobacco control policies and teen smoking," said lead author Douglas A. Luke, PhD.
While cigarette smoking has declined over the past 40 years, more than 1 million Americans still become smokers every year -- and most of them are adolescents.
Luke and colleagues from the Saint Louis University School of Public Health compared two sets of data: the National Cancer Institute's 1996 State Cancer Legislative Database -- a measure of state cancer-related legislation -- and the results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Smoking Behavior Survey.
States with more extensive tobacco control policies, such as New York, Connecticut, California, and Rhode Island, had significantly lower youth smoking rates than states with fewer such policies, such as South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, found Luke and colleagues.
Desirable legislation involved the enforcement of smoking age restrictions, photo ID requirements for cigarette purchase, and incrementally severe penalties for stores caught selling cigarettes to minors.
The researchers emphasized that their study merely notes an association between strong policy and low teen smoking rates and does not prove that strong tobacco control policy is responsible for low smoking rates.
"However, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that strong tobacco control policies can influence teen smoking behavior," said Luke. The researchers report their study findings in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
On average, Republican-controlled states had lower rates of tobacco control legislation than Democratic-controlled states, the researchers found. "This is not surprising given the historical relationship between the Republican party and the tobacco industry," noted Luke.
The researchers also found some evidence that a strong state tobacco economy may dampen the effectiveness of tobacco control policies on youth smoking rates. "Tobacco control efforts in states with an entrenched tobacco economy will likely need to use approaches that take into account this dampening effect," said Luke.
While their findings are "intriguing," more research is needed, according to the researchers. Future studies should try to determine the exact combination of state characteristics most often associated with a strong tobacco control policy.
Future research should also measure the enforcement of tobacco control legislation, not merely its enactment. "The effectiveness of tobacco control policies is based in large part on whether they are consistently enforced," noted Luke.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sponsored by the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Preventive Medicine, is published eight times a year by Elsevier Science. The Journal is a forum for the communication of information, knowledge, and wisdom in prevention science, education, practice, and policy. For more information about the Journal, contact the editorial office at (619) 594-7344.
Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 387-2829.