The spatial distribution of underage tobacco sales in Los Angeles

Subst Use Misuse. 2008;43(11):1594-614. doi: 10.1080/10826080802241110.


Objective: Underage tobacco sales is considered a serious public health problem in Los Angeles. Anecdotally, rates have been thought to be quite high. In this paper, using spatial statistical techniques, we describe underage tobacco sales, identifying areas with high levels of sales and hot spots controlling for sociodemographic measures.

Methods: Six hundred eighty-nine tobacco outlets were investigated throughout the city of Los Angeles in 2001. We consider the factors that explain vendor location of illegal sales of tobacco to underage youth and focus on those areas with especially high rates of illegal sales when controlling for other independent measures. Using data from the census, the LA City Attorney's Office, and public records on school locations in Los Angeles, we employ general least-squares (GLS) estimators in order to avoid biased estimates.

Main outcome measure: vendor location of underage tobacco compliance checks, violators, and nonviolators.

Results: Underage tobacco sales in Los Angeles were very high (33.5%) for the entire city in 2001. In many zip codes this rate is considerably higher (60%-100%). When conducting spatial modeling, lower income and ethnicity were strongly associated with increases in underage tobacco sales. Hotspot areas of underage tobacco sales also had much lower mean family income and a much higher percentage of foreign born and greater population density.

Conclusions: Spatial techniques were used to better identify areas where vendors sell tobacco to underage youth. Lower income areas were much more likely to both have higher rates of underage tobacco sales and to be a hot spot for such sales. Population density is also significantly associated with underage tobacco sales. The study's limitations are noted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Censuses
  • Child
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Demography*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*