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Article | Access to cigarettes by young New Zealand smokers: little change from 2000 to 2008

Objective: To examine trends in young New Zealanders’ access to cigarettes from 2002 to 2008.

Methods: Self-reports of young smokers’ commercial sources of cigarettes, requests for proof of age and being refused a sale, and the amount spent on cigarettes, were analysed from the 2002 and 2004 Youth Lifestyles Surveys and 2006 and 2008 Year 10 In-depth Surveys of 14 to 15 year olds in New Zealand (NZ).

Results: Most young smokers obtain cigarettes through non-commercial sources; however, one-third bought their cigarettes from shops in 2008, with no evidence of a change in proportions purchasing from major retail outlets since 2000. Few young smokers were asked to show proof of age when purchasing cigarettes, with no evidence over time of more young smokers being asked for proof of age, but reports of being refused the sale of cigarettes decreased from 2000. Participants reporting being asked for proof of age had nearly six times the odds of being refused sale. The amount spent on cigarettes did not change over the study period.

Conclusion: Many young smokers continue to purchase cigarettes from commercial outlets, with no evidence of change in purchasing from major outlets such as dairies, service stations, supermarkets or liquor stores since 2000. The fact that few young smokers reported being asked to show proof of age suggests the need for stronger measures to ensure that retailers comply with New Zealand legislation regarding under-age sales of tobacco.

Implications: With an infringement notice scheme being implemented and tobacco price rises, there may be an increase in accessing cigarettes through social sources. It remains important to monitor commercial tobacco sales to young people to determine the efficacy of policy change.

Citation: Marsh, L, Gray, A., McGee, R., Newcombe, R., Patterson, R. (2012).  Access to cigarettes by young New Zealand smokers: little change from 2000 to 2008. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 36(5), 415-420. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2012.00909.x

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