Short-Term Impact of a Flavored Tobacco Restriction: Changes in Youth Tobacco Use in a Massachusetts Community

Published:October 24, 2019DOI:


      To counter the high prevalence of flavored tobacco use among youth, many U.S. localities have passed policies that restrict youth access to these products. This study aims to evaluate the short-term impact of a flavored tobacco restriction policy on youth access to, and use of, flavored tobacco products in a Massachusetts community.


      A community with the policy (Lowell) was matched to a community without the policy (Malden) with similar demographics, retailer characteristics, and point-of-sale tobacco policies. Product inventories were assessed in tobacco retailers in the 2 communities, and surveys were administered to high school–aged youth in those communities. Inventories and surveys were conducted around the time the policy took effect in October 2016 (baseline) and approximately 6 months later (follow-up); all data were analyzed in 2017. Chi-squared tests and difference-in-difference models were used to estimate the impact of the policy on flavored tobacco availability and youth perceptions and behaviors related to flavored tobacco use.


      Flavored tobacco availability decreased significantly in Lowell from baseline to follow-up periods by 70 percentage points (p<0.001), whereas no significant changes in flavored tobacco availability were seen in Malden. In addition, current use of both flavored and non-flavored tobacco decreased in Lowell, but increased in Malden from baseline to follow-up; these changes were significantly different between communities (flavored tobacco: −5.7%, p=0.03; non-flavored tobacco: −6.2%, p=0.01).


      Policies that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco have the potential to curb youth tobacco use in as few as 6 months.
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