Friday, October 25, 2019

Limiting Flavored Tobacco Sales May Cut Use in Youth

Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products may cut tobacco use among adolescents, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found.

Melody Kingsley, M.P.H., of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and colleagues compared tobacco use among youth in two Massachusetts towns, Lowell and Malden. In 2016, Lowell enacted a policy that restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products—those meant to taste like fruit, candy, honey, etc.—to tobacco retail stores such as smoking bars, vape shops, and tobacconists that only sell to adults aged 21 years and older. Malden did not have such a policy at the time of the study.

Researchers used retailer inventory data collected by Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program educators to compare the availability of flavored tobacco products in both towns in September 2016, before Lowell’s flavored tobacco restriction policy took effect, and six months later. More than 500 adolescents in Lowell high schools and more than 600 adolescents in Malden high schools took surveys about their tobacco use in September 2016 and again six months later.

During that timeframe, the percentage of stores where flavored products were available in Lowell dropped from 77.3% to 7.3%, whereas the availability of flavored tobacco products in Malden did not change significantly. Adolescent use of flavored tobacco products dropped 2.4% in Lowell but increased 3.3% in Malden. Adolescent use of non-flavored tobacco products dropped 1.9% in Lowell but increased 4.3% in Malden.

The researchers acknowledged that the surveys did not include all of the same adolescents at both time points, so they were unable to determine whether tobacco use for each adolescent in the study changed over time. Nevertheless, they concluded that overall Lowell’s policy appeared to curb tobacco use in youth.

“With a longer follow-up time, [we] expect these trends will continue, and the policy may begin to impact and reduce flavored tobacco initiation, as exposure to flavored tobacco among younger students continues to decline,” they wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News articles “FDA Seeks Information on Role of Flavors in Initiation, Cessation of Tobacco Use” and “FDA Warns Some E-Cigarette Users Having Seizures, Particularly Youth.”

(Image: iStock/sanjagrujic)

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