Background: Tobacco use is markedly higher among lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations than heterosexuals. Higher density of tobacco retailers is found in neighborhoods with lower income and more racial/ethnic minorities. Same-sex couples tend to live in similar neighborhoods, but the association of this demographic with tobacco retailer density has not been examined.
Methods: For a national sample of 97 US counties, we calculated the number of tobacco retailers per 1000 persons and rates of same-sex couples per 1000 households in each census tract (n = 17 941). Using spatial regression, we examined the association of these variables in sex-stratified models, including neighborhood demographics and other environmental characteristics to examine confounding.
Results: Results from spatial regression show that higher rates of both female and male same-sex couples were associated with a higher density of tobacco retailers. However the magnitude of this association was small. For female couples, the association was not significant after controlling for area-level characteristics, such as percent black, percent Hispanic, median household income, the presence of interstate highways, and urbanicity, which are neighborhood correlates of higher tobacco retailer density. For male couples, the association persisted after control for these characteristics.
Conclusion: Same-sex couples reside in areas with higher tobacco retailer density, and for men, this association was not explained by neighborhood confounders, such as racial/ethnic composition and income. While lesbian, gay, and bisexual disparities in tobacco use may be influenced by neighborhood environment, the magnitude of the association suggests other explanations of these disparities remain important areas of research.
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