Credit: GG Illustrator Dorota Dziki (@drawing_dorota)

Recent study finds link between tobacco sales and proximity to schools

By Lucy Dunn

The study, involving academics from the University of Glasgow, determined that banning cigarette sales near schools and playgrounds would significantly decrease the current number of shops with tobacco licenses.

A research group consisting of academics from both the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh has published a study that shows a ban on cigarette sales in places close to schools and playgrounds would amount to a 70% decrease in the number of shops allowed to sell these products. 

The study consisted of the creation of a digital map which plotted out the country’s 9000+ tobacco retailers and looked at the ways in which these numbers would change if various policies were implemented. The map also showed that there were more tobacco retailers per capita in deprived areas as opposed to wealthy ones. 

The researchers tested various hypothetical situations, for example: changing the type of shops allowed to retail tobacco or capping the number of shops allowed to sell. The most significant change, however, was the banning of cigarette sales in shops existing near children’s playgrounds or schools. Instead, it was hypothesised, stopping sales in smaller stores and only allowing larger supermarkets to sell cigarettes could be beneficial. 

An important part of the study involved inspecting the inequalities in tobacco sales and distribution across Scotland. It was found that in areas where more cigarette retailers exist, more people smoke, and teenagers are more likely to hang around near these types of shops. Although smoking rates in deprived areas come down to more than just shop placement, the study found that changing current policies could be extremely beneficial, if done correctly. 

The charity ASH Scotland estimated that in 2019, 19% of adults smoked: almost one in five, with the number of cigarettes smoked a day at a decreased value of 11.3, from 12.3 two years previously. In 2018, smoking was responsible for 16% of all deaths. Cigarette use causes damage to almost every organ in the body: from its strong correlation with stroke, lung cancer and mouth and throat problems, the reduction in the number of national smokers is considered an imperative health measure. 

This study was funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Tobacco Control


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