The effects of e-cigarette minimum legal sale age laws on youth substance use

Health Econ. 2019 Mar;28(3):419-436. doi: 10.1002/hec.3854. Epub 2019 Jan 15.


We use difference-in-differences models and individual-level data from the national and state Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from 2005 to 2015 to examine the effects of e-cigarette minimum legal sale age (MLSA) laws on youth cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and marijuana use. Our results suggest that these laws increased youth smoking participation by about one percentage point and approximately half of the increased smoking participation could be attributed to smoking initiation. We find little evidence of higher cigarette smoking persisting beyond the point at which youth age out of the laws. Our results also show little effect of the laws on youth drinking, binge drinking, and marijuana use. Taking these together, our findings suggest a possible unintended effect of e-cigarette MLSA laws-rising cigarette use in the short term while youth are restricted from purchasing e-cigarettes.

Keywords: alcohol; complements; e-cigarettes; marijuana; minimum legal sale age; smoking; substitutes; tobacco; tobacco control; vaping; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology