SUMMARY. This study aimed to provide empirical evidence to support previous research that participation in tobacco purchase attempt (TPA) procedures does not negatively impact minors' desire to initiate smoking habits or their willingness to discuss the dangers of smoking with peers and adults. Twenty-eight minors, who participated in TPAs, were compared to a group of eleven minors regarding whether or not they were smokers, whether or not they tried to get peers or adults to quit smoking, whether or not they tried to discuss with peers and adults about the dangers of smoking, and their perceptions of how easily it is to obtain tobacco products. Results demonstrated none of the minors in the TPA group initiated smoking, and there were not significant differences on most indicators regarding the frequency in which minors discussed the 78dangers of smoking with peers and adults. Minors in both groups perceived that they could easily obtain tobacco products. The findings suggest that participation in TPAs does not adversely affect minors' intentions to smoke or their desire to initiate discussions about the dangers of smoking with peers and adults. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <[email protected]> Website: <https://www.HaworthPress.com" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink">https://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2002 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]
A growing prevention effort to keep minors from smoking tobacco is the restriction of the merchants' illegal sales of tobacco products. Nationwide, part of this effort involves enacting merchant tobacco control legislation, which penalizes merchants who sell tobacco to minors. Research has documented that these laws have dramatically reduced the sales of cigarettes to minors by tobacco merchant vendors (e.g., Feighery, Altman, & Shaffer, 1991; Forster, Komro, & Wolf son, 1996; Jason, Ji, Anes, & Birkhead, 1991).
The best method to test the effectiveness of these merchant tobacco control laws is to conduct merchant tobacco sales compliance checks (Radecki & Strohl, 1991; Jason, Berk, Schnopp-Wyatt, & Talbot, 1999). These compliance checks typically involve a minor, who is un der the age of eighteen, as a field agent. The minor is sent into a store that sells tobacco products and attempts to purchase these products from the merchant vendor. If a merchant sells tobacco to the minor, then the merchant is considered to be in violation of the local ordinances that prohibit such sales. These checks are necessary because self-report measures or observational methods would likely be inaccurate or too cumbersome in assessing the rate of merchant tobacco sales to minors. Furthermore, these compliance checks must be done with a minor. If the compliance check were conducted with a person eighteen years of age or older, then the procedure would be invalid because technically the merchant did not sell tobacco to a minor.
There are several concerns about using minors to perform these compliance checks. One concern is that the compliance checks expose the minors to an illegal activity. In tum, this exposure could increase the likelihood that they too might begin illegally purchasing cigarettes on their own. A second concern is that if minors are exposed to the poten79tial ease with which they could obtain cigarettes, they might attempt to start smoking. These are the concerns that most institutional review boards (IRB's) have regarding the use of minors in such operations. Indeed, a number of research efforts involving tobacco merchant compliance checks using minors have been rejected because of such concerns (Alcaraz, Klonoff, & Landrine, 1997). The aforementioned concerns are conceived as potential risks when using minors to perform merchant tobacco sales compliance checks. However, if these risks are being used to circumvent potential studies involving merchant tobacco compliance checks, then such concerns need to be empirically validated before they are considered as evidence to negate potentially useful studies.
One study has examined the impact of minors' participation in tobacco purchase attempts (TPA's) on the minors' likelihood that he or she will engage in smoking or illegal tobacco purchase attempts. Alcaraz et al. (1997) surveyed forty-eight minors who attended tobacco education workshops. Afterwards, thirty-six of these minors were randomly assigned to a TPA group. The remaining eleven minors were assigned to a control group that did not engage in TPA's attempt to purchase cigarettes. After surveying the minors two years later, the authors found that none of the minors initiated smoking habits. Furthermore, some of the minors in the TPA group were influential in helping their parents quit smoking or asking friends not to smoke. Thus, the minors' participation in the TPA's did not increase the likelihood of commencing smoking habits. In fact, the authors felt that having minors involved in TPA's would actually be an effective prevention effort to help keep minors and their peers from using tobacco.
The purpose of the present study was meant to examine the issues explored in Alacraz et al. (1997). The present study hypothesized that minors who engage in TPA's will not engage in future tobacco use. This study also investigated how participating in TP A's would impact minors' impression of their ability to obtain tobacco from merchants.