Studies show that comprehensive smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes are associated with lower rates of youth smoking

Kentucky Health News
Tobacco-control policies such as taxes and comprehensive smoke-free laws are associated with lower rates of youth smoking, according to recent studies.

The purpose of the first study, published in Sage Journals, was to determine whether the presence and strength of local smoke-free ordinances was associated with cigarette and smokeless tobacco use among high school students in Kentucky, and whether use varied by urban/rural location.

The researchers used data from more than 353,000 10th and 12th graders in the 2004-2018 biennial Kentucky Incentives for Prevention Survey. The smoke-free ordinance data came from the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at the University of Kentucky.

The center said in a news release that UK researchers “found that high-school students living in Kentucky counties with a comprehensive smoke-free law are 23% less likely to smoke cigarettes and 16% less likely to use smokeless tobacco compared to those living in counties with a partial smoke-free law or no law.”

Also, “Students in counties with moderate/weak laws did not differ in likelihood of use for either product, compared to those in counties without a law.”

Comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibit smoking inside all workplaces and public places.

The study also found that rural youth may be more likely to smoke.

“Students in urban counties were 14% less likely to smoke, but there was no difference in likelihood of smokeless use by urban/rural location,” says the report.

In conclusion, the researchers write, “Given that nearly half of U.S. youth are not protected by smoke-free laws, advocacy for comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws in all states and municipalities may be an important component in reducing the prospect of youth cigarette and smokeless tobacco use.”

In Kentucky, nearly 5% of high-school students smoke cigarettes and nearly 22% of them use electrinic cigarettes, according to data from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A separate study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that looked at how changes in state tobacco-control policies impacted youth e-cigarette use in 2013-19. It found that adolescents were 55% less likely to use e-cigarettes following the enactment of a statewide comprehensive smoke-free law than before the state had a law.

The researchers then compared this to the impact of age-of-purchase laws and e-cigarette excise taxes and found that comprehensive smoke-free laws had the biggest impact on youth vaping.

“Youth were 21% less likely to use e-cigarettes when their state had a minimum age-of-purchase law than when they did not,” says the release.

In addition, the study found that “while changes in tobacco excise taxes did not have a statistically significant impact, adolescents who lived in states with higher average cigarette excise taxes were more likely to use e-cigarettes.”

“This suggests that states need to consider parity and tax all tobacco products including e-cigarettes at the same rate,” says the release. “These findings indicate that comprehensive smoke-free laws, tightening restrictions on youth access, and enforcing existing age-of-purchase laws can reduce the likelihood of e-cigarette use among youth.”
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