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Many minors who smoke gain access to cigarettes by asking adults to buy them, according to findings of two new studies. Antismoking programs should address this problem, but don't, the researchers say.
According to Dr. Steven E. Shive of California State University in Chico, who led one of the studies, most young adults who buy cigarettes for minors are friends and family. Only about one-third are strangers.
A second study of more than 16,000 students in grades 8 through 10 in 29 Minnesota cities presented at the same meeting found that over 40 percent of the adolescents who reported smoking in the last 30 days had a stranger buy cigarettes for them in the month prior to the survey.
According to Vincent Chen of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, who led the study, over 60 percent of the buys were conducted at gas stations or convenience stores and about half of the teenagers paid just the cost of the cigarettes.
"If we can get these people to realize the harm they are causing to these minors, then we might have less of a problem with it," Shive told Reuters Health. "If students don't smoke before they are 20, there's less probability that they'll ever smoke."
Shive and his colleagues administered a survey to 250 college students and found that about one third of them were asked by minors to buy cigarettes within the last year. Of those, just over 3 percent of those approached did so.
The investigators also found that males and younger adults were more likely than females and older adults to be approached and to buy cigarettes for minors. "Clearly, it is urgent that we develop tobacco control strategies to address this problem," Chen and colleagues concluded.
Shive agreed. "We need to focus more on preventing this problem--there really are no programs that address this," he said. "Minors are increasingly getting their cigarettes through having older people buy them. It really is against the law for these minors to be smoking, but it is hard to enforce laws prohibiting adults from buying cigarettes for them."