Objectives: We examined the standard compliance protocol and its validity as a measure of youth access to tobacco.
Methods: In Study 1, youth smokers reported buying cigarettes in stores where they are regular customers. In Study 2, youths attempted to purchase cigarettes by using the Standard Protocol, in which they appeared at stores once for cigarettes, and by using the Familiarity Protocol, in which they were rendered regular customers by purchasing nontobacco items 4 times and then requested cigarettes during their fifth visit.
Results: Sales to youths aged 17 years in the Familiarity Protocol were significantly higher than sales to the same age group in the Standard Protocols (62.5% vs. 6%, respectively).
Conclusions: The Standard Protocol does not match how youths obtain cigarettes. Access is low for stranger youths within compliance studies, but access is high for familiar youths outside of compliance studies.