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Impediments to the enforcement of youth access laws


OBJECTIVE To recognise obstacles to the implementation of the effective enforcement of tobacco sales laws and to identify measures that could be taken to overcome these obstacles.

DESIGN Interviews were conducted with health department officials in Massachusetts communities to determine why their efforts to prevent illegal sales of tobacco to minors had been only partially successful.

SETTING Urban, suburban, and rural communities in Massachusetts, USA.

RESULTS Organisational problems, court challenges to citations, budgetary threats, and political pressure all combined to reduce the frequency of enforcement inspections to half the intended rate. Political pressure resulted in the exclusion of older youths from compliance tests, further undermining enforcement efficacy.

CONCLUSIONS Suggestions for addressing the problems include obtaining support from the community, keeping elected and court officials informed about plans for merchant education and law enforcement, using efficient enforcement protocols, setting merchant compliance goals, and advising the public and government officials about progress towards those goals, using older youths to make purchase attempts, and testing all merchants frequently.

  • tobacco sales
  • access laws
  • adolescents

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