Objectives: This study evaluated the influence of age, gender, vending machine lockout devices, and tobacco industry-sponsored voluntary compliance programs ("It's the Law" programs) on underage youths' ability to purchase tobacco.
Methods: Twelve youths made 480 attempts to purchase tobacco in Massachusetts from over-the-counter retailers and vending machines with and without remote control lockout devices. Half the vendors were participating in It's the Law programs.
Results: In communities with no requirements for lockout devices, illegal sales were far more likely from vending machines than from over-the-counter sources (odds ratio [OR] = 5.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.3, 10.3). Locks on vending machines made them equivalent to over-the-counter sources in terms of illegal sales to youths. Vendors participating in It's the Law programs were as likely to make illegal sales as nonparticipants (OR = 0.87, 95% CI = 0.57, 1.35). Girls and youths 16 years of age and older were more successful at purchasing tobacco.
Conclusions: The It's the Law programs are ineffective in preventing illegal sales. While locks made vending machines equivalent to over-the-counter sources in their compliance with the law, they are not a substitute for law enforcement.