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May 9, 2001

Use of Identification Cards by Underage Youth to Purchase Tobacco

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;285(18):2329. doi:10.1001/jama.285.18.2329

To the Editor: Because adolescents in the United States purchased 1 billion packs of cigarettes annually in the 1980s despite laws banning the sale of tobacco to minors,1 more comprehensive laws to reduce youth access were passed. These include federal2 and state3 laws that require store clerks to ask youth for identification (ID) demonstrating that they are old enough to purchase tobacco. Given that youth nonetheless continue to purchase 1 billion packs of cigarettes each year,4 many suspect that clerks rarely ask youths for ID,3,4 and some data confirm this.5 Others suspect that clerks now request ID as required by law but fail to examine the ID card.5 We hypothesized that store clerks frequently request ID from youth, but then merely glance at the ID and fail to calculate their ages, indicative of perfunctory compliance with the law. If this is the case, then sales of cigarettes to youth should be higher for those who flash IDs (which indicate that they are underage) than for those who do not.

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