Investigating How Cases Where State Laws That Preempt Local Tobacco Laws Impact Adolescent Health

Teen boys smoking.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the end of last year 32 U.S. states had laws that preempted more stringent control of tobacco at the local level. A researcher at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health has received a $150,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Policy for Action program to study the impacts of those preemption laws on adolescent health and health disparities.

“Cigarette smoking causes nearly one in five deaths each year in the United States, and it is the leading preventable cause of death in our country,” says Y. Tony Yang, ScD, LLM, MPH, the principal investigator for the grant. “Understanding how state preemption laws affect adolescent health and health disparities is important because nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18. Each day in the United States, about 2,000 youth under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and more than 300 youth become daily cigarette smokers. Also concerning is that the rates of e-cigarette and hookah use among middle school and high school students have been rising.”

The Policy for Action program’s goal is to identify policies, laws, and other system and community levers that can help ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life. This year, the program made available special supplementary funds to support new research on the health equity effects in cases where state laws pre-empt local laws.

Yang’s project will study the effect of tobacco control state preemption laws on adolescent health and health disparities. He is teaming up with Thomas Stratmann of George Mason University for the project.