The Facts


The vast majority of underage smokers are getting their tobacco products from friends and family – somewhere other than retail stores.

A 2015 Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institute for Public Health found that 86% of underage smokers obtained tobacco products from sources other than direct purchase at retail stores.1



Underage youth are much more likely to smoke when they see others in their age group smoking illegally.

A 2012 Surgeon General study found that “Social influences are among the most robust and consistent predictors of adolescent smoking. Peer influences seem to be especially salient, perhaps because adolescence is a time during which school and peer group affiliations take on particular importance. Adolescents tend to overestimate the prevalence of smoking among their peers, and perceptions that one’s peers smoke consistently predict use of tobacco.”2



Possession, use and purchase laws become even more effective when enforced strictly and with a meaningful penalty.

A 2007 study examined enforcement of the laws prohibiting purchase, use and possession of tobacco in four Kentucky communities.3

Seven themes were identified: enforcement not a priority, unaware of enforcement authority, spotty enforcement, other sources of tobacco, minimum penalties, confusion about compliance checks, and schools as de facto enforcers.

The study concluded that purchase, use and possession laws may be more effective if they are enforced strictly with a meaningful penalty and a clear enforcement strategy.3



Possession, use, and purchase laws (PUP) are significantly better at reducing youth tobacco use and youth observation of tobacco use in schools and towns.

A 2009 DePaul University Study found that over time, youth exposed to increased enforcement of laws prohibiting Purchase, Use and Possession (PUP) observed less youth tobacco use at school and in their towns and perceived lower rates of tobacco use among their peers than youth in the control group.4

This study tested for any differences across four environments, including:

  • With Friends
  • In School
  • On School Grounds
  • Around Town

In all four environments, the use of PUP Laws were significantly associated with lower likelihood of students observing use of tobacco in the town.4

Overall, the study found that “over time, youth in the experimental PUP condition observed less youth tobacco usage at school and in their town, and perceived lower rates of tobacco among their peers at school and among friends than youth in the control condition. The findings suggest that PUP law enforcement might be used to strengthen community norms against youth tobacco use.” 4

1 United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Tobacco Products. Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study [United States] Public-Use Files ICPSR36498-v3 2016-08-01.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.

3 Hahn EJ1, Riker C, Butler KM, Cavendish S, Lewis P, Greathouse Maggio LW, Nunley V., “Enforcement of tobacco purchase, use, and possession laws in four Kentucky communities.” Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice Volume 8, Issue #2. (2007) Pgs. 140-147

4 Jason, Leonard A. PhD, Steven B. Pokorny PhD, Monica Adams MPH, Annie Topliff MA, Courtney Harris BA, Yvonne Hunt PhD. ” Youth Tobacco Access and Possession Policy Interventions: Effects on Observed and Perceived Tobacco Use” American Journal on Addictions Volume 18, Issue #5, (2009): Pgs. 6-8.

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