California’s “T21” Law Reduced Daily Smoking Among Young Adults
The legal age for purchasing tobacco products in California was increased from 18 to 21 years (i.e., a “T21” law was implemented) in June of 2016. According to a study conducted by a team of researchers at UC Davis Health and published in the July 2021 issue of Preventive Medicine, implementation of the law decreased daily smoking among young adults aged 18-20 years.
Co-author Susan Stewart, Ph.D. and professor in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences explained to UC Davis Health that “the prevalence of ‘daily’ smoking among 18-20-year-olds went from 2.2% in 2016 to nearly zero in 2019.” First author Melanie Dove, Sc.D., M.P.H. and an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, added that it’s particularly important to reduce the number of young people who begin smoking because their brains are still developing and are “especially susceptible to nicotine and addiction.” Dr. Dove is a graduate of the Quality, Safety and Comparative Effectiveness Research Training in Primary Care (QSCERT-PC) program, a post-doctoral fellowship program at the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research (CHPR), and received QSCERT-PC support while conducting the study.
Study co-author Elisa Tong, M.D., associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine and a core faculty member with CHPR, is already looking ahead to future studies. Dr. Tong directs tobacco cessation initiatives at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. She believes additional research should be conducted to “examine the role[s that] e-cigarette use, policy enforcement as well as online sales” play in getting young people hooked on tobacco. She anticipates a need for putting new policies in place “…in order to protect our youth in California from the deadly diseases that often result from addiction to tobacco products.”