Associations between smoking trajectories, smoke-free laws and cigarette taxes in a longitudinal sample of youth and young adults
Cigarette smoking patterns vary within the population, with some individuals remaining never smokers, some remaining occasional users, and others progressing to daily use or quitting. There is little research on how population-level tobacco control policy interventions affect individuals within different smoking trajectories. We identified associations between tobacco control policy interventions and changes across different smoking trajectories among adolescents and young adults. Using 15 annual waves of data drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we applied a group-based trajectory model to identify associations between days smoked per month, comprehensive smoke-free laws, cigarette tax rates, and known socio-demographic risk factors for membership in different smoking trajectories. Comprehensive smoke-free laws were associated with reduced risk of initiation and reductions in days smoked per month for all trajectories other than occasional users. Higher tax rates were associated with reduced risk of initiation and days smoked for all trajectories other than established users. Overall, population-based tobacco control policies, particularly comprehensive smoke-free laws, were associated with reduced smoking. Tobacco taxes primarily reduced risk of initiation and use among never smokers, experimenters, and quitters, consistent with previous research suggesting that tobacco manufacturers lower prices after tax increases to reduce the cost of continued smoking for established users. These results provide support for expanding smoke-free laws and establishing a minimum tobacco floor price, which could improve public health by reducing the risk of initiation as well as use among occasional and established smokers.