Introduction: Residential tobacco retail outlet (TRO) density and proximity have been associated with smoking behaviors. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms underlying these relations and their potential relevance outside of the residential setting. This study integrates ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and geo-location tracking to explore real-time associations between exposure to TROs and smoking urges among 47 economically disadvantaged smokers in a cessation trial (59.6% female; 36.2% White).
Methods: EMA data were collected for 1 week postquit via smartphone, which recorded smoking urge strength ≤ 4 random times daily along with real-time participant location data. For each assessment, the participants' proximity to the closest TRO and the density of TROs surrounding the participant were calculated. Linear mixed model regressions examined associations between TRO variables and smoking urges and whether relations varied based on participants' distance from their home. Covariates included sociodemographics, prequit tobacco dependence, treatment group, and daily smoking status.
Results: Main effects were nonsignificant; however, the interaction between TRO proximity and distance from home was considered significant (p = .056). Specifically, closer proximity to TROs was associated with stronger smoking urges ≤ 1 mile of home (p = .001) but not >1 mile from home (p = .307). Significant associations were attributable to assessments completed at participants' home addresses. All density analyses were nonsignificant.
Conclusions: Technological challenges encountered in this study resulted in a significant amount of missing data, highlighting the preliminary nature of these findings and limiting the inferences that can be drawn. However, results suggest that closer residential proximity to tobacco outlets may trigger stronger urges to smoke among economically disadvantaged smokers trying to quit, perhaps due to enhanced cigarette availability and accessibility. Therefore, limiting tobacco sales in close proximity to residential areas may complement existing tobacco control efforts and facilitate cessation.