Context: State policies aimed at controlling youth access to tobacco are an important component of public health efforts to reduce smoking prevalence among youth and prevent subsequent disease.
Objectives: This study sought to assess the extensiveness of state youth access tobacco control legislation in the United States, describe how state policies changed over a 4-year period, explore how various political and economic characteristics are related to state policies, and determine the relationship of youth smoking behavior to state youth tobacco control policies.
Design: This descriptive and correlational study utilized data from multiple national surveillance, economic, and sociodemographic data sets.
Participants: All 50 states and the District of Columbia provided economic and political data. A standard tobacco-control policy score was developed by an expert panel for each state. Aggregated state-level measures of youth smoking behavior were provided by 79,491 youth in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Main outcome measures: Included were extent of state tobacco control policies and changes over time, relationship between state political and economic characteristics and tobacco control policies, and relationship between state policies and youth smoking behavior.
Results: State policy scores increased in variability and in mean value over the 4-year period, from a mean score of 7.2 in 1993 to 9.0 in 1996. State policy scores were significantly correlated with several state political and economic variables. States with more extensive tobacco control policies had significantly lower youth smoking rates. There was some evidence that a strong state tobacco economy may limit the effectiveness of tobacco control policies on youth smoking rates.
Conclusions: It is possible to reliably measure the extent to which states are achieving important public health goals in limiting youth access to tobacco products. Comprehensive state tobacco control policies are important for increasing prevention and cessation of smoking among youth.