Responses to tobacco control policies among youth.

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OBJECTIVE: Explore adolescents' response to current and potential tobacco control policy issues.

DESIGN: The 13 site Tobacco Control Network (TCN), sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted 129 sex and ethnic homogeneous focus groups.

PARTICIPANTS: 785 white, African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Hispanic adolescents who were primarily smokers from rural, urban, and suburban locations across the USA.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Awareness, knowledge, opinions, and behaviour regarding laws and rules, prices, cigarette ingredients, and warning labels.

RESULTS: Teenagers were generally familiar with laws and rules about access and possession for minors, but believed them ineffective. They were knowledgeable about prices, and reported that a sharp and sudden increase could lead them to adjust their smoking patterns but could also have negative consequences. They found a list of chemical names of cigarette ingredients largely meaningless, but believed that disclosing and publicising their common uses could be an effective deterrent, especially for those who were not yet smoking. They were aware of current warning labels, but considered them uninformative and irrelevant.

CONCLUSIONS: Understanding teenagers' attitudes and behaviours before implementing policies that will affect them will likely increase their effectiveness. Disclosing and publicising the chemical contents of cigarettes, and increasing prices quickly and sharply, are potentially effective areas for policy change to impact adolescent tobacco use.