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Evaluating the impact and equity of a tobacco-free pharmacy law on retailer density in New York City neighbourhoods


Background In 2018, New York City (NYC) implemented a tobacco-free pharmacy law as part of a comprehensive policy approach to curb tobacco use. This study models the reduction in tobacco retailer density following the ban to examine differences in the policy’s impact across neighbourhoods.

Methods Tobacco retailer density per 1000 residents was calculated in July 2017 for each of NYC’s Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs, n=188) before and after removing pharmacies as licensed tobacco retailers. Pearson correlations and linear regression (with predictors scaled to 10 unit increments) measured associations between the projected change in retailer density after the ban and NTA demographic characteristics.

Results On average, retailer density decreased by 6.8% across neighbourhoods (SD: 6.3), with 17 NTAs experiencing reductions over 15%. Density reduction was greater in NTAs with higher median household income (r: 0.41, B: 1.00, p<0.0001) and a higher proportion of non-Hispanic white residents (r: 0.35, B: 0.79, p<0.0001). NTAs with a higher percentage of adults with less than a high school education (r: −0.44, B: −2.60, p<0.0001) and a higher proportion of Hispanic residents (r: −0.36, B: −1.07, p<0.0001) benefited less from the policy. These relationships held after assessing absolute changes in density (vs per cent change).

Conclusions NYC’s tobacco-free pharmacy law substantially reduces tobacco retailer density overall, but the impact is not equal across neighbourhoods. In order to minimise disparities in the tobacco retail environment, local governments considering a similar ban should supplement this strategy with other retailer restrictions to achieve equitable outcomes.

  • disparities
  • prevention
  • public policy
  • socioeconomic status

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