Compliance with minimum price and legal age for cigarette purchase laws: evidence from NYC in advance of raising purchase age to 21

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Abstract

Background

New York City (NYC) raised the minimum purchase age for cigarettes from 18 to 21 on 1 August 2014. The new law is intended to decrease current smoking rates and smoking initiation among the city's youth. Assessment of compliance with existing cigarette sales and tax laws could aid in determining what may be needed for successful implementation of the city's new law.

Purpose

To assess compliance with minimum sales price and purchase age laws in NYC, before change in law.

Methods

Ten trained field investigators purchased cigarettes from different types of retailers throughout all five NYC boroughs, resulting in 421 purchases. Investigators noted whether they were asked for identification and the price of their purchase. Multivariable logistic and Ordinary Least Squares regression techniques were used to assess predictors of retailer compliance with sales price and minimum purchase age laws.

Results

In 29% of purchases, investigators did not have to produce identification (p<0.05) to purchase cigarettes. Only 3.1% of sales were at prices lower than the minimum sales price. City borough was significantly associated with purchase without identification (p<0.001) and mean sales price (p<0.024). Vendor type (independent vs chain) was significantly related to investigators being able to purchase cigarettes without identification (p<0.001).

Conclusions

Variation in compliance with existing laws suggests that more active monitoring of compliance with the new minimum legal purchase age will be required in order to realise the new law's public health potential.

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