Objectives To estimate the proportion of retailers that sell tobacco in the absence of appropriate local government oversight, and to describe the characteristics by which they differ from those that can expect to receive such oversight.
Methods A database of listed tobacco retailers was obtained from a regional Victorian local government. Potential unlisted tobacco retailers were added using online searches, and attempts to visit all retailers were undertaken. GPS coordinates and sales type information of retailers that sold tobacco were recorded and attached to neighbourhood-level data on socioeconomic disadvantage and smoking prevalence using ArcMap. Logistic regression analyses, χ2 tests and t-tests were undertaken to explore differences in numbers of listed and unlisted retailers by business and neighbourhood-level characteristics.
Results Of 125 confirmed tobacco retailers, 43.2% were trading potentially without government oversight. Significant differences were found between listed and unlisted retailers by primary business type (p<0.001), and sales type (p<0.001) but not by the other characteristics.
Conclusions The database of tobacco retailers was inaccurate in two ways: (1) a number of listed retailers no longer operated or sold tobacco, and (2) 43.2% of businesses confirmed as selling tobacco were missing. As no form of licensing system exists in Victoria, it is difficult to identify the number of retailers operating, or to determine how many receive formal regulatory oversight. A positive licensing system is recommended to regulate the sale of tobacco and to generate a comprehensive database of retailers, similar to that which exists for food registration, gaming and liquor-licensed premises.
- public policy
Data availability statement
No data are available. These data are not publicly available as the Local Government involved in the study requested to remain anonymous.
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Contributors JB collected the data. LT and JB prepared and analysed the geographical data. JB and SB analysed and interpreted the remaining data and were major contributors in writing the manuscript. MM, MAR and LT provided guidance and expertise when reviewing several drafts of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the conception and design of the work, and read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding La Trobe University provided the primary researcher with a scholarship, professional supervision, assistance with the design of the study, data analysis and interpretation, access to resources such as a computer and printing equipment, library resources and other expertise. This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship. This research was also supported by a La Trobe Rural Health School Graduate Research Support grant.
Competing interests JB is the Assistant News Editor for BMJ Tobacco Control.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.