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Tobacco Use: Retailer Education When Used Alone to Restrict Minors' Access to Tobacco Products – Without Reinforcement


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 3 studies (search period through May 2000). The review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to reducing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF finding pdf icon [PDF - 129 KB].

Three studies qualified for the review.

  • None of the studies provided measurements of youth tobacco use or purchase behaviors.
  • One study observed a 21.3 percentage point increase in the number of retailers requiring proof of age from youth making test purchase attempts.
  • Two studies reported reductions in retailer sales rates of 9 and 27.5 percentage points.

Summary of Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the CPSTF did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.


Applicability of this intervention across different settings and populations was not assessed because the CPSTF did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Evidence Gaps

The CPSTF identified several areas that have limited information. Additional research and evaluation could help answer the following questions and fill remaining gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

The following outlines evidence gaps for these reviews of interventions to restrict minors’ access to tobacco products: Active Enforcement of Sales Laws Directed at Retailers When Used Alone; Community Mobilization with Additional Interventions; Community Education About Youth Access to Tobacco Products When Used Alone; Laws Directed at Minors' Purchase, Possession or Use of Tobacco Products When Used Alone; Retailer Education with Reinforcement and Information on Health Consequences When Used Alone; Retailer Education Without Reinforcement When Used Alone; Sales Laws Directed at Retailers When Used Alone.


The studies identified in this review provide evidence of effectiveness of community mobilization when coordinated with other interventions in reducing both tobacco use among youth and youth access to tobacco from commercial sources. A better understanding of the relative impact of community mobilization on reducing youth demand for tobacco products would assist local programs significantly in setting priorities for future intervention efforts. Research issues identified by others overlap with the questions generated as the result of this review:

  • What intervention combinations, intensity, and duration are the minimum required to reduce youth tobacco use?
  • What effect, if any, do interventions to reduce youth access to tobacco products through commercial sources have on access through social sources? What effect, if any, do interventions to reduce youth access to tobacco products through social sources have on access through commercial sources?
  • What is the required intensity and duration of active enforcement components?
  • What effect does decreasing the number of outlets selling tobacco products have on youth access?
  • How do age verification devices (such as scanners) affect retailer sales compliance?


Community mobilization interventions included efforts to identify and incorporate community concerns. When tailored to resonate with the sociocultural composition of the population, community mobilization combined with additional interventions should be applicable to most U.S. settings. Some questions remain regarding applicability of these interventions in settings and populations other than those studied.

  • Are there differences in the effectiveness of or barriers to these interventions in urban and rural settings or in communities that cross jurisdictions?

Other Positive or Negative Effects

This review did not identify any additional positive or negative effects of these interventions

Economic Evaluations

The information available for economic evaluation consisted of a single study evaluating one component (active enforcement directed at retailers) of an effective multicomponent intervention. Considerable research is, therefore, warranted regarding the following questions:

  • What are the costs of these interventions?
  • What is the cost-effectiveness of these intervention combinations?
  • What is the cost-effectiveness, net cost, or net benefit of these intervention combinations when cost-effectiveness analysis includes cost savings of illness averted?
  • What combination(s) of components are most cost effective?


Significant barriers to implementing interventions to reduce youth access were noted in this review. Research issues important to communities and to local and state governments involving potential barriers include the following:

  • What components of community mobilization are most effective in building and maintaining support for retailer compliance with sales laws?
  • What components of community mobilization are most effective in building and maintaining support for active enforcement, including the consistent application of effective penalties?
  • What aspects of efforts to prevent or to overturn state preemption laws are effective?

Study Characteristics

The three reviewed studies evaluated mailed educational messages or a combination of mailed messages and face-to-face encounters.