UCI researchers recommend new tobacco control policies
By increasing cigarette taxes, raising the smoking age and adopting new or enforcing current regulations that prevent or delay youth smoking, elected officials and other policy makers can improve lives and save billions of taxpayer dollars, according to a UC Irvine-led tobacco policy consortium.
"Our research shows that reducing smoking initiation in youth is likely to offer the largest public health impact during this new century," said Daniel Stokols, UCI professor of planning, policy and design, who helped establish the consortium - a partnership of scientists, community leaders, health advocates, school administrators, teachers and elected officials.
The consortium explored programs and policy initiatives for youth smoking intervention through direct translation of UCI tobacco research findings. Based on these and previous UCI youth tobacco-use findings, the UC Irvine Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC) Tobacco Policy Consortium developed policy recommendations, published in a recent report titled "Prevent Youth Smoking." To read the report, see www.tturc.uci.edu.
Their recommendations are timely as California legislators debate budget and program issues concerning smoking prevention, cessation and tobacco licensing. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Californians spent $7.1 billion in smoking-attributable medical costs in 1998.
"With our escalating knowledge of how young people become vulnerable to nicotine addiction and the harmful effects of smoking, policy makers and educators now have an unprecedented opportunity to adopt bold new measures for preventing adolescent smoking and nicotine addiction," said Larry Jamner, UCI professor of psychology and social behavior, who launched the consortium in 2003 with Stokols.
The group now offers the following recommendations derived from the CDC and from previous findings of UCI TTURC research:
Raise cigarette taxes by 20 percent to levels equal to or greater than those of highest-taxing states.
Urge law enforcement to actively implement existing laws that prohibit retailers from selling tobacco to minors by conducting frequent compliance checks to identify retailers who sell tobacco to minors, and to penalize violators with a graduated series of fines and civil penalties.
Promote laws that mandate a permit or license for stores that sell tobacco, and revoke licenses for repeated sales to minors. Fees from licensing of tobacco vendors can be used to fund enforcement activities and to develop and maintain active, large-scale programs.
Raise the legal age for sale or purchase and consumption of tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21.
Promote policies and enforce existing laws for smoke-free parks, playgrounds and outdoor recreation areas accessible to young people.
Eliminate tobacco-vending machines and self-service displays in stores accessible to young people.
Improve community education about the risks of adolescent smoking, and urge the public to adopt polices that prevent the sharing of tobacco products with minors.
About the UCI Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center: The UCI TTURC is one of the original centers funded jointly by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The major research focus of the UCI TTURC is to identify key factors that underlie susceptibility to nicotine addiction in adolescents and young adults.
About the University of California, Irvine: Celebrating 40 years of innovation, the University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.