Background: A prior study presented the only systematic investigation of the role of sociocultural variables in youth access to tobacco. White, black, and Latino girls and boys attempted to purchase cigarettes in the same 72 stores at the same time of day. Results revealed significantly greater sales to girls than to boys and to minorities than to whites. Before concluding that sociocultural variables must be addressed in merchant intervention programs designed to reduce youth access to tobacco, this study must be replicated, particularly in light of the significant decreases in youth access in the past 5 years. This article presents that replication.
Method: The stores used in the prior study were selected, and 12 white, black, and Latino girls and boys attempted to purchase cigarettes in those stores at the same time of day. Results Youths' access rate in 1999 (12.7%) was significantly lower than in the prior (1993-1995) study (41%). No effect for minors' gender was found, but the ethnicity effect again emerged: Black and Latino youth were 2.5 times more likely to be sold cigarettes than their white counterparts.
Conclusions: Multiple sociocultural variables affect youth access to tobacco when access rates are high, but only youth ethnicity plays a role when access rates are low. Merchant interventions designed to reduce youth access to tobacco must address ethnic issues.