Background: The Institute of Medicine recommends that public health agencies restrict the number and regulate the location of tobacco retailers as a means of reducing tobacco use. However, the best policy strategy for tobacco retailer reduction is unknown.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test the percent reduction in the number and density of tobacco retailers in North Carolina resulting from three policies: (1) prohibiting sales of tobacco products in pharmacies or stores with a pharmacy counter, (2) restricting sales of tobacco products within 1000 ft of schools, and (3) regulating to 500 ft the minimum allowable distance between tobacco outlets.
Methods: This study uses data from two lists of tobacco retailers gathered in 2012, one at the statewide level, and another "gold standard" three-county list. Retailers near schools were identified using point and parcel boundaries in ArcMap. Python programming language generated a random lottery system to remove retailers within 500 ft of each other. Analyses were conducted in 2014.
Results: A minimum allowable distance policy had the single greatest impact and would reduce density by 22.1% at the state level, or 20.8% at the county level (range 16.6% to 27.9%). Both a pharmacy and near-schools ban together would reduce density by 29.3% at the state level, or 29.7% at the county level (range 26.3 to 35.6%).
Conclusions: The implementation of policies restricting tobacco sales in pharmacies, near schools, and/or in close proximity to another tobacco retailer would substantially reduce the number and density of tobacco retail outlets.
Keywords: Policy; Public health; Tobacco.
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