Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

The Determinants of Laws Restricting Youth Access to Tobacco

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

The Determinants of Laws Restricting Youth Access to Tobacco

Article excerpt


Over 40 yr have passed since the first Report of the Surgeon General warned of the health risks of smoking. In the wake of this report, public policies to reduce smoking incidence primarily relied on a combination of taxation, information campaigns, advertising restrictions, and bans on smoking in public places. More recently, as highlighted by the release of the 23rd Report of the Surgeon General in 1994, since many smokers begin consuming tobacco in their adolescent years, much attention has been given to reducing smoking incidence among youths. Indeed, many states have now enacted laws restricting youth access to tobacco. Utilizing a variety of restrictions (such as minimum purchase age requirements, prohibition of vending machine sales, and bans on the distribution of free samples of tobacco), studies, for example, Ross and Chaloupka (2004), Powell and Chaloupka (2005), and Taurus et al. (2005) find these laws have had varied success in reducing youth demand for tobacco. (1)

Although the literature has devoted much attention to the impact of anti-smoking policy on cigarette demand, a few studies have taken a different track by addressing the demand for anti-smoking policy. In particular, studies, for example, Chaloupka and Saffer (1992), Hersch, Del Rossi, and Viscusi (2004), and Gallet, Hoover, and Lee (2006) have tied the state-level decision to adopt a smoking ban to a number of factors, including among others, per capita cigarette consumption, per capita income, cigarette taxes, political affiliation of lawmakers, and the importance of tobacco to a state's economy.

Yet the literature has been silent in explaining differences in state laws restricting youth access to tobacco, and so this is the focus of our study. Specifically, we estimate a random-effects Probit model, which ties the probability that a state adopts a particular youth access restriction to a number of factors. For example, along with several other variables, we include per capita cigarette consumption and the per-pack cigarette tax as determinants of youth access restrictions. However, since these variables may be endogenous in the model, we devote considerable effort to controlling for this issue in the Probit regressions. (2) Briefly, although several variables are spotty in terms of significance, when we treat the right-side variables as exogenous, the results reveal that states more likely to adopt youth access restrictions tend to have higher per capita income. Yet when we control for endogeneity the results change, as increasing importance is attached to other variables (i.e., per capita cigarette consumption, the political affiliation of lawmakers, the percentage of the population living in a metropolitan area, the importance of tobacco to the state, and the cancer mortality rate) as determinants of youth access restrictions.

In the next section, we discuss issues surrounding our empirical model. This is followed in Section III with a presentation of the estimation results. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of our results in Section IV.


Youth Access Restrictions

In our model, we address factors affecting the probability that a state adopts youth access restrictions. Specifically, state-level measures of youth access restrictions (for the years 1991--2000), which were obtained from Alciati et al. (1998) and the Impact Teen website (, encompass six measures adopted by states to actively limit youth access (i.e., minimum purchase age requirements, requirement that cigarettes be sold in sealed packages, requirement of sales clerk intervention when purchasing tobacco products, requirement that individuals who appear young show photo ID when purchasing tobacco products, ban vending machine sales of tobacco products, and ban the free distribution of tobacco products), as well as three measures addressing compliance with the law (i. …

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