RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – State-funded tobacco control programs and laws that outlaw smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants are effective strategies for curbing youth smoking, according to a new study by researchers from RTI International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, examined how funding for tobacco control programs, smoke-free air laws, tobacco retailer compliance with youth access laws and cigarette prices influence smoking rates among youths 12 to 17 years old.
The findings are based on data from the 2002 to 2008 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, state-level tobacco control policy data, and state and municipality population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This seven-year period saw a sharp rise in newly enacted smoke-free air laws, increased funding for tobacco control programs and a modest increase in cigarette prices,” said Matthew Farrelly, Ph.D., senior director of RTI's Public Health Policy Research Program and the study’s lead author. “The findings from this study strengthen the evidence base for such policies by quantifying their influence on youth smoking.”
The study considered how these tobacco control policies influenced smoking initiation, the prevalence of current and established smoking, and susceptibility to smoking among never smokers.
Funding for state tobacco control programs were consistently associated with a decrease in youth smoking and susceptibility to smoking.
The study also found that increases in states and localities with smoke-free air laws was associated with decreases in susceptibility to smoking and the prevalence of current and established smoking among youth.
The average price for cigarettes increased from $3.80 to $4.58 during the study period; however, the authors note that the effect of higher prices was mixed. The study found that increased cigarette prices were associated with fewer current smokers but did not show a statistically significant impact on deterring nonsmokers from picking up the habit.
The researchers also examined how tobacco control policies would have influenced youth smoking had they been held at 2002 levels. They found that if the level of smoke-free air law coverage, funding for tobacco control and cigarette prices had remained at 2002 levels, the prevalence of smoking would have been roughly 10 percent higher in 2008 than actual levels.
“These results suggest that continued support for state tobacco control programs, higher cigarette taxes, and smoke-free air laws may further decrease youth smoking,” Farrelly said. “Because most adult smokers begin smoking during adolescence, these policies could make a lasting impact on adult smoking prevalence and the associated health consequences of smoking.”