Background: Current tobacco access restrictions are ineffective because youth can find noncompliant retailers or social sources from which to get cigarettes.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine characteristics related to the cigarettes access behaviors of underage smoking youth.
Methods: Data were collected from 20,297 students (Grades 9-12) attending 29 secondary schools in Ontario, Canada in 2001. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were used to examine how tobacco retailers surrounding schools, school smoking rates, and student characteristics were related to smokers buying their own cigarettes, getting someone else to buy their cigarettes, or getting their cigarettes from friends.
Results: Among underage smokers, 34.3% usually buy their own cigarettes, and 42.1% report that they are never asked for their age when trying to buy cigarettes. The more tobacco retailers there were surrounding a school, the more likely smokers were to buy their own cigarettes and the less likely they were to get someone else to buy their cigarettes. Students' smoking habits were also related to their cigarette access behaviors.
Conclusions: Tobacco retailer density surrounding schools is related to student cigarette access behaviors. Selective enforcement of youth access laws in retail outlets in close proximity to schools might help to prevent underage youth from smoking.