Public health policy guidelines recommend that health care providers (eg, physicians, nurses, others) counsel adolescent smokers to quit and that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) may be considered to aid in smoking cessation for nicotine-dependent youth. This recommendation is discrepant with Food and Drug Administration–approved labeling of NRT products, stating that they not be sold to persons younger than 18 years. It is not clear how easily minors are able to purchase NRT products in retail markets.
To explore youth access to NRT by conducting the first study, to our knowledge, to determine the ability of minors to purchase over-the-counter NRT products.
Observational case series of NRT purchase attempts and survey description of store characteristics.
Retail businesses in Memphis, Tenn.
Population-based sample of 165 stores that sold over-the-counter medications.
Main Outcome Measure
Successfully completed purchase attempts of NRT by the minor buyer.
In most stores that stocked NRT products, the age of the minor was not queried at any time during the purchase attempt (79%) and the minor was able to successfully purchase the product (81%). If the minor was asked her age, the store was much less likely to sell the NRT product. Stores in which a cash register gave an age query prompt or in which alcohol was sold were more likely to inquire about the minor's age and less likely to sell NRT products.
Nicotine replacement therapy products were successfully obtained in most purchases by a minor buyer without proof of age. While ease of purchasing NRT products is potentially beneficial to young smokers attempting to quit, these purchases are discrepant with Food and Drug Administration labeling regarding the sale of NRT products to minors.