Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Evaluation of California’s ‘Tobacco 21’ law
  1. Xueying Zhang1,
  2. Tam D Vuong1,2,
  3. Elizabeth Andersen-Rodgers1,
  4. April Roeseler1
  1. 1 California Tobacco Control Program, California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, California, USA
  2. 2 Institute for Population Health Improvement, University of California, Sacramento, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Xueying Zhang, California Tobacco Control Program, California Department of Public Health, Sacramento CA 95814, USA; xueying.zhang{at}


Introduction California’s law raising the minimum tobacco sales age to 21 went into effect on 9 June 2016. This law, known as ‘Tobacco 21’ or ‘T21’, also expanded the definition of tobacco to include electronic smoking devices. This paper describes the T21 evaluation plan and initial evaluation results.

Methods An evaluation plan and logic model were created to evaluate T21. A tobacco retailer poll was conducted 7 months after the law went into effect to assess awareness, support and implementation; an online survey of California adults was fielded to provide data on tobacco use and attitudinal changes before and after T21 implementation; and tobacco purchase surveys were conducted to assess the retailer violation rate (RVR). Multivariate models estimated the odds of RVR and odds of being aware, agreeing with and observing advertisements related to T21.

Results Seven months after the T21 effective date, 98.6% of retailers were aware of the law and 60.6% supported the law. Furthermore, 66.2% of retailers agreed that people who start smoking before 21 would become addicted to tobacco products. The RVR using youth decoys under age 18 statistically decreased from 10.3% before T21 to 5.7% after T21 (P=0.002). Furthermore, the RVR using young adult decoys ages 18–19 was 14.2% (95% CI 9.3% to 19.1%) for traditional tobacco and 13.1% (95% CI 10.2% to 16.1%) for electronic smoking devices.

Conclusions Survey findings suggest that the high awareness and support for the law may have contributed to reducing illegal tobacco sales to youth under 18 and achieving widespread retailer conformity with the new law disallowing sales to young adults under 21.

  • public policy
  • surveillance and monitoring
  • public opinion

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors XZ led the study design, conducted data analysis and wrote the manuscript. TDV managed the contract for data collection, developed the data collection protocol, conducted data analysis and wrote the manuscript. EA-R developed the evaluation plan and logic model for the evaluation and edited the manuscript. AR instructed the evaluation studies, wrote the discussion of the manuscript and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant fromany funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval California Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.