Increasing the legal age at which individuals can buy tobacco has become an increasingly common policy tool aimed at reducing youth smoking. There remains, however, some debate on whether such policies are an efficient use of resources. Evidence thus far has either (i) relied on local or regional Minimum Legal Age (MLA) reforms which suffer from a range of potential endogeneity and spillover biases, or (ii) rely on the use of adult population control groups that are, in many cases, unsuitable. Missing from the debate on the effectiveness of MLA policy is an analysis of a national increase in an MLA, where a suitable control group of identically aged adolescents exists. The 2001 MLA reform in the Republic of Ireland, which increased the MLA from 16 to 18, offers natural experiment conditions whereby issues relating to endogeneity, spillover effects and unreliable control groups are made redundant. The outcomes examined in the analysis are also novel compared to previous research, as both intensity of current smoking behaviour and previous smoking experience are examined. The evidence found here strongly supports increases in MLAs as an effective policy tool to reduce youth smoking rates.
Tobacco Control Legal Smoking Age Youth Smoking Ireland Difference-in-Difference HBSC