Association between free tobacco product sample receipt and tobacco use in youth and adults in the PATH Study, 2014-2016.


Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Tobacco companies have distributed free samples of tobacco products in the past. While prior studies have found a relationship between various marketing strategies and tobacco use, no study has assessed the prevalence of free sample receipt or the relationship between receipt and subsequent tobacco use. We analyze three waves of Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study data to provide the first nationally representative prevalence estimates of free tobacco product receipt among US youth and adults in 2014 to 2016. This analysis also examines the relationship between free tobacco product receipt and ever, past 30-day, and new tobacco use one year later. The prevalence of free sample receipt in the US population in 2014-2016 was 0.8% for any tobacco product but 1.6% for ENDS/e-liquid in adults, and 0.5% for any tobacco product but 1.05% for ENDS/e-liquid in youth. Free sample receipt was higher among vulnerable subgroups. Receipt of free tobacco product samples was associated with tobacco use status using cross-sectional data in youth and adults, as well as one year later in youth. Receipt of a free ENDS or e-liquid sample was associated with any tobacco and ENDS use status using cross-sectional data in youth and adults. After these data were collected, the US Food and Drug Administration broadened the ban on distributing free samples to include all tobacco products except smokeless tobacco in adult-only facilities. Our findings support limiting free samples to further prevent youth access to tobacco products.

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