Objectives: Policymakers, researchers, and citizens are beginning to recognize the need to limit minors' access to tobacco by restricting the sale of cigarettes through vending machines. One policy alternative that has been proposed by the tobacco industry is a requirement that vending machines be fitted with electronic locking devices. This study evaluates such a policy as enacted in St. Paul, Minn.
Methods: A random sample of vending machine locations was selected for cigarette purchase attempts conducted before implementation and at 3 and 12 months postimplementation.
Results: The rate of noncompliance by merchants was 34% after 3 months and 30% after 1 year. The effect of the law was to reduce the ability of a minor to purchase cigarettes from locations originally selling cigarettes through vending machines from 86% at baseline to 36% at 3 months. The purchase rate at these locations rose to 48% at 1 year.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that cigarette vending machine locking devices may not be as effective as vending machine bans and require additional enforcement to ensure compliance with the law.