Objective Tobacco retailers are an important source of tobacco products for minors. Previous research shows racial discrimination in sales to minors, but no national study has examined neighbourhood correlates of retailer under-age sales.
Methods We accessed publicly available results of 2015 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections of tobacco retailers (n=108 614). In this cross-sectional study, we used multilevel logistic regression to predict the likelihood of retailer sale to a minor based on tract characteristics. We assessed the proportion of residents identifying as American Indian, Asian, Black, Latino and White; Isolation Index scores for each racial/ethnic group; the proportion of people less than age 65 living in poverty; and the proportion of residents age 10–17 in relation to retailer inspection results.
Results The proportion of American Indian residents, Black residents, Latino residents and residents less than age 65 under the poverty line in a neighbourhood are independently, positively associated with the likelihood that a retailer in that neighbourhood will fail an under-age buy inspection. The proportion of White residents and residents age 10–17 are independently, negatively associated with the likelihood of sale of tobacco products to a minor. Isolation Index scores show a similar pattern. In multivariable models holding neighbourhood characteristics constant, higher proportions of Black (+), Latino (+) and age 10–17 (−) residents remained significant predictors of the likelihood of under-age sale.
Discussion Regulatory agencies should consider oversampling retailers in areas with higher likelihood of sales to minors for inspection. Interventions with tobacco retailers to reduce inequities in youth access should be implemented.
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