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New studies show decreasing access to cigarettes for youth in the Minnesota Adolescent Community Cohort Study

New research in the December issue of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, shows that there was a decline in access to cigarettes from commercial venues from 2000 to 2003.

These findings are specific to the Minnesota Adolescent Community Cohort study, a longitudinal telephone survey of youth less than 18 years old. The probability of an adolescent as young as 12 years of age buying cigarettes from a commercial source in the past month decreased significantly from 36% at baseline to 22% after three years.

In sharp contrast, the probability of their obtaining cigarettes from a social source in the previous month during the same time period increased significantly from 54% to 76%. “Although the use of social sources for cigarettes may increase when the commercial supply of cigarettes is restricted, the total amount of youth smoking seems to be reduced by increased commercial restrictions” comments Dr. Widome, the corresponding author.

These results are important because they indicate a decreasing access to commercial sources of cigarettes. It is well established that, apart from illegally buying their tobacco from commercial sources, underage smokers also obtain their tobacco from social sources like friends, relatives, older adolescents, and adults. For 14 to 18 year old minors in the US, the usual sources of cigarettes are a store (23.5%) or vending machine (1.1%); giving someone else money to buy them (29.9%); borrowing them from someone else (30.4%); stealing them (4.4%); or getting them in some other way (10.7%), which includes via the internet.

The good news in Widome et al.’s findings is that adolescents who obtained cigarettes from social sources were less likely to become heavy smokers compared to youth who bought their cigarettes from commercial sources.

David Evans | alfa
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