Relatively little attention has been given to the retail availability of tobacco products despite the likelihood that ubiquitous supply may represent a primary form of tobacco promotion in Australia. This study aimed to explore the number and distribution of tobacco outlets, smokers' perceptions about the availability of tobacco and the role availability may play in tobacco consumption and quitting attempts in Australia. The study comprised two parts: Part A involved mapping retail tobacco outlets in the Hunter Region of NSW, Australia. Part B involved a statewide telephone survey of 539 current smokers aged 18 years and over in NSW. Part A identified 1270 retail tobacco outlets, giving a density of one outlet per 384 persons aged over 15 years, or one outlet per 77 smokers. Associations between socioeconomic status of areas and retail availability of tobacco were not found. Of the survey respondents in Part B, 87.5% indicated that they would be within walking distance of a retail tobacco outlet during their daily activities. Those who were younger, male and single were more likely to purchase tobacco at convenience-type outlets. We therefore conclude that some groups of smokers appear vulnerable to the availability of tobacco and a reduction in the availability of tobacco is likely to benefit smokers who wish to quit.
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