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State policies decrease youth smoking, drinking and sex

State policies, such as taxing the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, decrease teenage smoking and drinking, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers also found a correlation between an increased availability of family planning clinics and a decrease in teen sexual intercourse. The study results suggest that state and local legislatures can help teenagers make decisions to avoid unhealthy behaviors by implementing laws to make cigarettes and beer more difficult to obtain and increase the number of family planning clinics. The study is published in the February 2005 issue of Preventive Medicine.

"We found that taxes on cigarettes and beer, tobacco vending machine restrictions and more family planning clinics influenced the behavior of teenagers. However, we want to caution that state policies are neither the only nor the most important influence on risky behaviors by teens. Other factors, such as parental involvement, may have been taking place outside of our study," said David M. Bishai, MD, MPH, PhD, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Population and Family Health Sciences.

The Hopkins researchers used teen responses to the 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was conducted by 20 U.S. states and cities. They analyzed the survey results with respect to the various states' prices for beer, wine and spirits; tobacco taxes; and the presence or absence of state laws on access to tobacco vending machines and of family planning clinics.

They found that teens were 1.9 percent less likely to smoke and drink when cigarette and alcohol taxes were higher. Among the regions surveyed, the researchers report that doubling the number of communities with laws that prohibit teenagers' access to cigarette vending machines, would lower teen smoking by 9 percent. In addition, a 10 percent increase in the number of family planning clinic
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Contact: Kenna L. Lowe
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
1-Feb-2005


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