News • 27.06.2019

Small shops & heavy advertisers less likely to ID for tobacco

Study has implications for Tobacco 21 enforcement

Three boys standing together, one smoking a cigarette; copyright:...
Source: panthermedia.net/Diego Cervo

Young people are less likely to be carded for cigarettes in certain types of shops, particularly in those that heavily advertise tobacco, a new study has found.

When researchers who were 20 and 21 visited a variety of shops in a city on the verge of implementing a law prohibiting sales to people younger than 21, more than 60 percent of cashiers didn't ask them for identification, found the study, which appears online in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

And these young adults slipped by without an age check most often when they visited small stores, tobacco shops and shops plastered with tobacco ads.

"Our findings suggest that certain types of stores -- tobacco shops, convenience stores and those with a lot of tobacco advertising -- are more likely to sell tobacco to a young person without checking his or her ID," said Megan Roberts, an assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion at Ohio State, and a member of the university's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The most interesting new information found in this study was that certain retailers were less likely to ask for ID, said Niru Murali, who participated in the study as part of her undergraduate work in Ohio State's College of Public Health.

More than 64 percent of grocery stores checked IDs, compared with about 34 percent of convenience stores and tobacco shops. Bars, restaurants and alcohol stores were even less likely to card the fieldworkers: only 29 percent requested ID.

"In addition to variation by type of store, we saw that those that heavily advertised were less likely to card us. It makes sense, if you think about it, that people who are plastering their windows with tobacco ads probably are trying to make a lot of money off those products and may be more likely to look the other way when selling to a young adult," Murali said.

Retailers are supposed to card anyone who looks younger than 30 under the Columbus Tobacco 21 law. The idea behind the city's law, and others like it, is to decrease the long-term health toll that tobacco takes by preventing young people from starting to smoke.

Source: Ohio State University

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