Apply Appropriate Penalties for Minors in Possession of Alcohol or Tobacco

Description of Strategy

The majority of states have laws that prohibit minors from purchasing, possessing, and/or using alcohol and tobacco products. Over 75 percent of those states enacted laws that impose sanctions upon minors who violate purchase, use, and/or possession laws. Penalties vary by state and range from confiscation of the product to fixed or graduated monetary fines, participation in alcohol or tobacco education programs or community service, suspension of driving privileges, and/or imprisonment (National Cancer Institute, n.d).

Wyoming state law prohibits minors from possessing alcohol or tobacco if they are under 21 years of age for alcohol or under 18 years of age for tobacco. If the minor is found guilty of possession alcohol or tobacco results in a misdemeanor. For possession of alcohol the maximum penalty is a $750 fine and/or imprisonment for not more than 6 months. For possession of tobacco the penalty is a $50 fine for the first offense, $250 fine for the second offense in a 24 month period, and a $750 fine for a third offense within a 24 month period (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 12-6-101, § 14-3-305, 2017).

Also known as...

Tobacco purchase-use-possession (PUP) laws

Discussion of Effectiveness


Evidence on the effectiveness of applying appropriate penalties for minors in possession of alcohol suggests the presence of such laws is associated with lower numbers of alcohol-related crashes (Fell, Fisher, Voas, Blackman, & Tippetts, 2008; Fell, Scherer, Thomas, & Voas, 2016).


The evidence on the effectiveness of applying appropriate penalties for minors in possession of tobacco suggests mixed effectiveness. Studies evaluating student tobacco use found towns with possession-use-purchase (PUP) laws had lower rates of self-reported use and a smaller increase in current use rates than towns without such laws (Jason, Pokorny, & Adams, 2008; Jason et al., 2009). The studies that did not find significant effects of PUP laws suggested that the mixed result may be due to difference in the level of enforcement and citation (Lazovich, Forster, Widome, & VanCoevering, 2007; Wakefield, 2003).


Strategy Description

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.) Tobacco purchase possession and use: An examination of state laws and penalties. Retrieved August 21, 2012

Wyoming Statute Annotated § 12-6-101 (2017). Retrieved September 14, 2017

Wyoming Statute Annotated§ 14-3-305 (2017). Retrieved September 14, 2017

Evidence Base

Fell, J. C., Fisher, D. A., Voas, R. B., Blackman, K., & Tippetts, A. S. (2008). The relationship of underage drinking laws to reductions in drinking drivers in fatal crashes in the United States. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(4), 1430–1440. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2008.03.006

Fell, J, Scherer, M, Thomas, S., & Voas, R. (2016). Assessing the impact of twenty underage drinking laws. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77, 249-260.

Gottlieb, N. H., Loukas, A., Corrao, M., McAlister, A., Snell, C., & Huang, P. P. (2004). Minors’ tobacco possession law violations and intentions to smoke: Implications for tobacco control. Tobacco Control, 13(3), 237–243. doi:10.1136/tc.2003.003988

Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S. B., & Adams, M. (2008). A randomized trial evaluating tobacco possession-use-purchase laws in the USA. Social Science & Medicine, 67(11), 1700–1707. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.028

Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S. B., Adams, M. L., Topliff, A., Harris, C. C., & Hunt, Y. (2008). Effects of youth tobacco access and possession policy interventions on heavy adolescent smokers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(1), 1–9. doi:10.3390/ijerph6010001

Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S. B., Adams, M., Topliff, A., Harris, C., & Hunt, Y. (2009). Youth tobacco access and possession policy interventions: Effects on observed and perceived tobacco use. American Journal on Addictions, 18(5), 367–374. doi:10.1080/10550490903077788

Lazovich, D., Forster, J., Widome, R., & VanCoevering, P. (2007). Tobacco possession, use, and purchase laws and penalties in Minnesota: Enforcement, tobacco diversion programs, and youth awareness. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 9(1), 57–64. doi:10.1080/14622200601083475

Wakefield, M. (2003). Teen penalties for tobacco possession, use, and purchase: Evidence and issues. Tobacco Control, 12(90001), 6i–13. doi:10.1136/tc.12.suppl_1.i6

Futher Reading

Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S. B., Adams, M., Hunt, Y., Gadiraju, P., Morello, T., …Dinwiddie, C. (2007). Youth caught in violation of tobacco purchase, use, and possession laws education versus fines. Behavior Modification, 31(6), 713–731. doi:10.1177/0145445506298720

Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S. B., & Schoeny, M. E. (2002). A response to the critiques of tobacco sales and tobacco possession laws. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 24(1), 85–93. doi:10.1300/J005v24n01_07