Background: Availability of tobacco may be associated with increased smoking. Little is known about how proximity to a retail outlet is associated with smoking behaviours among smokers seeking treatment.
Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted using chart data was extracted for 734 new clients of a nicotine dependence clinic in Toronto, Canada who visited during the period April 2008 to June 2010. Using a tobacco retail licensing list, clients were coded as to whether there were 0, 1, or more than 1 retail outlet located 250 m from their postal code address. Conditional fixed effects regression analyses were used to assess the association between proximity and quit status, number of previous quit attempts, number of cigarettes per day, and time to first cigarette, controlling for demographic characteristics and neighbourhood.
Results: 72% of patients lived within 250 m of a retail outlet. Those who had more than one outlet with 250 m of their address were less likely to be abstinent at the initial assessment (OR = 0.45; 95% CI: 0.23, 0.87; p = 0.014) and less likely to have a longer time to first cigarette (OR = 0.60; 95% CI: 0.45, 0.79), both before and after adjustment for covariates. Smokers who had at least one outlet within 250 m of their address smoked 3.4 cigarettes more per day than smokers without an outlet after controlling for neighbourhood and covariates. There was no significant association between proximity and lifetime number of quit attempts.
Conclusions: Proximity to a tobacco retail outlet was associated with smoking behaviours among a heavily addicted, treatment seeking population. Environmental factors may have a substantial impact on the ability of smokers to quit smoking.
Keywords: Environment; Smoking cessation; Spatial; Tobacco.