Association between distance from home to tobacco outlet and smoking cessation and relapse

Having to walk further to the closest tobacco outlet may help to increase quitting among adults smokers, according to a new study out of Finland. The study included data from two previous studies involving more than 20,700 individuals aged 18–75 years, including more than 8,300 baseline current smokers.

Having to walk further to the closest tobacco outlet may help to increase quitting among adults smokers, according to a new study out of Finland. The study included data from two previous studies involving more than 20,700 individuals aged 18–75 years, including more than 8,300 baseline current smokers. Among the total number of participants, 2,562 quit, while 822 of the more than 12,300 baseline ex-smokers relapsed. For the baseline smokers, the data show that a 500-meter increase in distance from home to the nearest tobacco outlet was linked to a 16% increase in the likelihood of quitting in the in-between analysis and a 57% increase in within-individual analysis after adjusting for various factors. Among ex-smokers, the researchers noted no association between changes in distance to tobacco outlets and the likelihood of smoking relapse. "To the best of our knowledge," the researchers write, "this is the first study to examine the impact of change in access to tobacco on smoking behaviors in 2 large independent data sets using between-individual and within-individual comparisons." A commentary accompanying the research, from Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH, and Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH, at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, asserts the study "greatly strengthens the research base linking the retail promotion of tobacco and smoking rates. Its first-of-a-kind longitudinal design that compares changes in proximity with retail stores to changes in smoking behavior clarifies the cause-and-effect sequence."