Objective: To examine the quantity (density) and location (proximity) of tobacco outlets and retail cigarette advertising in high school neighborhoods and their association with school smoking prevalence.
Methods: Data from the 135 high schools that participated in the 2005-2006 California Student Tobacco Survey were combined with retailer licensing data about the location of tobacco outlets within walking distance (1/2 mi or 805 m) of the schools and with observations about the quantity of cigarette advertising in a random sample of those stores (n=384). Multiple regressions, adjusting for school and neighborhood demographics, tested the associations of high school smoking prevalence with the density of tobacco outlets and retail cigarette advertising and with the proximity of tobacco outlets to schools.
Results: The prevalence of current smoking was 3.2 percentage points higher at schools in neighborhoods with the highest tobacco outlet density (>5 outlets) than in neighborhoods without any tobacco outlets. The density of retail cigarette advertising in school neighborhoods was similarly associated with high school smoking prevalence. However, neither the presence of a tobacco outlet within 1000 ft of a high school nor the distance to the nearest tobacco outlet from school was associated with smoking prevalence.
Conclusions: Policy efforts to reduce adolescent smoking should aim to reduce the density of tobacco outlets and retail cigarette advertising in school neighborhoods. This may be achieved through local zoning ordinances, including limiting the proximity of tobacco outlets to schools.