Our new study looking at exposure of children to tobacco retailing, recently published in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that an average 10-to-11-year-old child in Scotland comes within 10m of a shop selling tobacco 43 times a week. This rises to 149 times a week for children living in the poorest areas—six times more than the 23 encounters a week experienced by children living in affluent areas. This demonstrates an unexpectedly large inequality in the amount of times children are exposed to tobacco sales. Unexpected because in the same study we showed that tobacco outlets are 2.6 times more common around the homes of children living in the most deprived areas than the least. Yet we found a six-fold difference in exposure because we used GPS trackers (fully consented and ethics-approved, of course) to follow exactly where children moved through their environments. We found that most exposure came from convenience stores (41%) and newsagents (15%) on school days, with peaks before and after school hours. At weekends, we found most exposure came from supermarkets (14%), with a peak around midday.
The difference in the number of times children in poor areas are in or near to places selling tobacco is most concerning when you consider the pathways leading people to start smoking. Most adult smokers start when they are teenagers, and the availability of tobacco products is a key factor in in why people start to smoke and why they find it hard to give-up. Our findings raise important questions about when and where tobacco products are sold and the messaging this is sending to children.
The connection between the local availability of tobacco products and smoking behaviour has been underlined in new research from the CRESH team this week. Published in the journal Tobacco Control, we show how moving into an area of Scotland where tobacco products are more readily available can significantly increase the risk of smoking while pregnant. We estimate that a pregnant woman living in an area with the highest tobacco availability is 70% more likely to smoke than when she was living in an area with the lowest availability of tobacco products.
Why is this important? Firstly, smoking during pregnancy is a vital Public Health issue and is recognised as a key priority area for UK health policy. It is harmful for both the mother and the developing fetus and the effects for social and health outcomes can persist into childhood and adulthood. Since smoking is so strongly associated with poverty and deprivation, it also has an important role to play in the persistence of health inequalities across generations.
But there are other reasons why the research is important. Much of what we know, including previous research from CRESH, is based on information from a single point in time. While these studies are crucial in establishing the strength of associations, they are less useful for determining mechanisms. A key question that remains is whether high availability is the cause of smoking behaviour or whether retailers preferentially locate in areas of high demand. Both pathways are plausible but both carry very different conclusions and policy recommendations. Our latest research is able to address this question using information on smoking during pregnancy which is collected routinely as part of Scotland’s hospital maternity records. By looking at multiple pregnancies to the same individual, we were able to relate changes in smoking behaviour between pregnancies to changes in exposure to tobacco retailers from residential moves. This approach provides strong evidence that availability is causally linked to behaviour.
The policy implications are clear. As more and more countries move towards a “Tobacco Endgame” policy this, and other research, highlights how a focus on tackling the local availability of tobacco products will be crucial. In a week where the UK government has suggested that preventing poor health lies with “people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking” our findings are a timely reminder of the importance of considering the wider set of structural factors that shape our health of which our residential environment is one important component.
Why are adolescents that live in areas with high concentrations of tobacco shops more likely to smoke?
New findings suggest Scottish teenagers living in areas with a high density of shops selling tobacco have greater knowledge about cigarette brands.
Earlier work in Scotland found that adults and adolescents living in areas with high densities of shops selling tobacco were more likely to smoke. Public health researchers have suggested that restrictions on tobacco retail outlet density are a potential ‘new frontier’ in the long-running campaign to achieve a tobacco ‘endgame’. However, the reasons why exposure to greater numbers of tobacco outlets is associated with smoking are unclear and the types of restrictions on retail density that might best support this public health goal are not known.
A new study by CRESH has explored possible pathways linking tobacco outlet density to smoking among adolescents. Our work used responses from 22,049 13 and 15 year olds to the 2010 Scottish School Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. Data from the Scottish Tobacco Retailers Register were used to calculate a measure of the density of tobacco outlets around the survey respondents’ homes.
We were interested to know whether adolescents in areas with more tobacco outlets had better knowledge of tobacco products, and so assessed how many cigarette brands they could name. We also looked at whether adolescents in high outlet density areas had more positive attitudes about smoking as it has been suggested that exposure to outlets and the tobacco marketing and purchasing found within them may ‘normalise’ smoking. We examined whether in areas where there are more tobacco outlets it may be easier for adolescents to make underage cigarette purchases. Finally, we considered tobacco price, assessing whether in areas with more tobacco shops, and more retail competition, cigarettes were cheaper. Continue reading TOBACCO OUTLET DENSITY AND PATHWAYS TO SMOKING AMONG TEENAGERS→
Adolescents who recall seeing e-cigarettes in shops are more likely to have tried them in the past and are more likely to intend to try them in the future, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.
New research published this week in BMC Public Health by the CRESH team, and colleagues in Global Public Health, has found that Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods have the highest availability of both tobacco and alcohol outlets. The average density of tobacco outlets rises from 50 per 10,000 population in the least income deprived areas to 100 per 10,000 in the most deprived areas. For alcohol outlets licensed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises the figures were 25 per 10,000 in the least income deprived areas rising to 53 per 10,000 in the most income deprived areas.
Today we are launching an interactive webmap that allows users to map tobacco and alcohol outlet density, and related health outcomes, for neighbourhoods (‘datazones‘) across Scotland. The underlying data we have collected and assembled can also be freely downloaded for use. Our research from Scotland shows that outlet density matters for health:
areas with the highest alcohol outlet density have double the death rate of those with the lowest densities (see our blog post, report and infographic)
adolescents living in areas with the highest tobacco outlet density are almost 50% more likely to smoke than those with the lowest (see our blog post, paper and infographic).
ALCOHOL OUTLET DATA UPDATED 25 JUNE 2015: Previous to this date the alcohol outlet density data had used an alternate measure of density than outlets per km2, resulting in values that were typically 30-40% lower than the actual value. Whilst the figures have changed the general picture has not: an area of high density remains an area of high density. The rest of the data are unaffected.