There was no associated decrease in ‘ever’ or ‘current’ smoking patterns with California’s T21 law, at least three years post-implementation.
The study titled, “Smoking behavior in 18–20 year-olds after tobacco 21 policy implementation in California: A difference-in-differences analysis with other states,” was published in Preventive Medicine and examined local smoking patterns after the state set in place the first tobacco 21 (T21) policies.

UC Davis researchers Melanie Dove, Susan Stewart and Elisa Tong, analysed such patterns before and after the law was implemented. Subsequently, they compared California to other states which don’t have a T21 policy in place, examining data  from the 2012-2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The study showed that the new T21 law was indeed associated with a greater decrease in smoking, at least when it came to daily smoking. “Before California’s T21 policy, there was an 11% annual decrease in the odds of ever smoking among 18–20 year-olds in California and a 6% decrease in the referent states. After the policy, these trends did not change significantly. Results for current smoking were similar. For daily smoking, there was an 8% annual decrease before the policy and a 26% annual decrease after the policy among 18–20 year-olds in California; D-I-D estimates were 0.80 (95% CI: 0.57, 1.14) using referent states as the comparison and 0.62 (95% CI: 0.41, 0.95) using 21–23 year-olds in California as the comparison,” reported the study Abstract.

No decrease in ‘non-daily’ smoking rates 18–20 year-olds

However, the measure failed to impact its target audience. “There was an association between California’s T21 policy and a decrease in daily smoking among 18–20 year-olds, compared with 21–23 year-olds, more than three years post-implementation,” concluded the researchers.

The researchers speculate that the reason may be that these users don’t smoke regularly and often obtain cigarettes from peers. Moreover, there was no associated decrease in ‘ever’ or ‘current’ smoking patterns with California’s T21 law, at least three years post-implementation.

To this effect, said Tong, an internist and associate professor who directs tobacco cessation initiatives at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, further studies should be conducted to inform policy. “Future studies should examine the role of e-cigarette use, policy enforcement as well as online sales,” said  “These are important public health issues that deserve examination and, potentially, new policy solutions in order to protect our youth in California from the deadly diseases that often result from addiction to tobacco products.”

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