County-level associations between tobacco retailer density and smoking prevalence in the USA, 2012

Prev Med Rep. 2019 Oct 31;17:101005. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.101005. eCollection 2020 Mar.


We examine whether county-level tobacco retailer density and adult smoking prevalence are positively associated in the United States and determine whether associations differ in metropolitan vs. nonmetropolitan counties. We merged a list of likely tobacco retailers from the 2012 National Establishment Time-Series with smoking prevalence data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for 2828 US counties, as well as state tobacco policy information and county-level demographic data for the same year. We modeled adult smoking prevalence as a function of tobacco retailer density, accounting for clustering of counties within states. Average density in US counties was 1.25 retailers per 1000 people (range = 0.3-4.5). Smoking prevalence was 0.86 percentage points higher in the most retailer-dense counties, compared to the least. This association, however, was only significant for metropolitan counties. Metropolitan counties in the highest tobacco retailer density quartile had smoking prevalence levels that were 1.9 percentage points higher than metropolitan counties in the lowest density quartile. Research should examine whether policies limiting the quantity, type and location of tobacco retailers could reduce smoking prevalence.

Keywords: Geographic disparities; Smoking prevalence; Tobacco retailer density.