Minors often buy tobacco, even after showing ID


The battle to keep tobacco out of the hands of children and minors is occurring on many fronts but may be lost at the point-of-sale.

The battle to keep tobacco out of the hands of children and teenagers has used laws and public health programs such as the Truth Initiative. However, a new study in Pediatrics indicates that the battle may be lost when stores sell tobacco to children and teenagers, even after seeing proof-of-age identification that shows they are too young to legally purchase it.1

Investigators use state reports from the federal fiscal years in 2017 and 2018 provided by a federal agency that tracks the sale of tobacco to minors through compliance checks at retail states. They used reports from 17 states to find out how frequently the stores asked for identification, how many sales happened after identification was requested, and whether the violation rates differed when minors had to carry identification versus forbidden to do so.

They found that the stores were highly likely to ask for identification during a compliance check, asking for it 79.6% of the time. Violations that occurred after proof of age made up 22.8% among all violations. These violations were roughly 3 times as likely to happen when a minor was required to carry a form of identification. When the minor was asking for a vaping product rather than cigarettes, the violations were 42% more likely.

The researchers came to 2 conclusions. One, the new requirement that tobacco can only be sold to customers aged older than 21 years could could require identification be carried. Two, stores that sell to underage customers were more likely to be detected and penalized when youth inspectors carried identification during an undercover tobacco sale compliance check.



1.    Levinson AH, Lee JGL, Jason LA, Difranza JR. Asking for identification and retail tobacco sales to minors. Pediatrics. 2020;145(4):e20193253. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-3253

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