Objectives: We examined the relationship between students' tobacco use and the density and proximity of tobacco retailers near their schools.
Methods: We used data from the 2003-2004 California Student Tobacco Survey and California retail licensing data. Measures included students' self-reported tobacco use and geocoded state-reported locations of tobacco retailers. We used random-intercept generalized linear mixed modeling to jointly evaluate individual-level and school-level predictors.
Results: Density of retailers was associated with experimental smoking (odds ratio [OR] = 1.11; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02, 1.21) but not established smoking (OR = 1.06; 95% CI = 0.94, 1.20). The effects on experimental smoking were confined to high school students (OR = 1.17; 95% CI = 1.06, 1.29) in urban areas (OR = 1.11; 95% CI = 1.01, 1.21); no effects were observed among middle school students or in rural schools. High school students were more likely to obtain cigarettes from a retailer; middle school students relied more heavily on social sources.
Conclusions: Our results support the plausibility of reducing rates of students' experimental smoking, but not established smoking, by restricting their access to commercial sources of tobacco in urban areas.