Middle school and high school students are more likely to pass up cigarettes when faced with the prospect of being fined or losing their drivers license, according to a study of a Florida program that has helped reduce underage smoking by 40 percent.
Smoking rates for the most recent 30 days were lower in areas where underage smoking laws were more strictly enforced, ranging from 21 percent to 26.6 percent compared with low-enforcement areas, where rates ranged from 28.1 percent to 29.2 percent. Students in the high-enforcement areas were also much more aware of enforcement activity and the penalties for being caught smoking.
It would be unreasonable to conclude that the differences in tobacco use were due to enforcement without differences in awareness of enforcement activity, says lead author William C. Livingood, Ph.D., director of health, policy and evaluation research with the Duval County Health Department in Florida.
The findings are published in the December issue of Health Education & Behavior.
Floridas comprehensive campaign is made up of multiple components, including an advertising initiative, youth leadership and community partnerships, education, enforcement and evaluation and research. Since enforcement of underage smoking laws requires a complex coordination of police officers, judges, court clerks and states attorneys, counties varied widely in the number of children and adolescent smokers who received citations, ranging from one to more than 200.
For the purpose of this study, several counties were classified as either high-enforcement or low-enforcement counties. High-enforcement counties dispensed at least twice as many citations to underage smokers as low-enforcement counties. This study included surveys with 2,088 students, 1,140 from the high-enforcement counties and 948 from the low-enforcement counties.
Students in the high-enforcement counties were more likely to say that penalties reduce
Contact: Patricia Frank, R.N.
Center for the Advancement of Health