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Using geographic information systems to compare the density of stores selling tobacco and alcohol: youth making an argument for increased regulation of the tobacco permitting process in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger1,
  2. Laurie Ross1,
  3. William Burdick1,
  4. Sheryl-Ann Simpson2
  1. 1Department of International Development, Community, and Environment Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Doctoral Candidate in City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Laurie Ross, Department of International Development, Community and Environment, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01610, USA; lross{at}


Background This study is based on a community participatory research (CBPR) partnership between a youth group and a local university to explore whether greater regulation of tobacco permits would reduce the density of tobacco outlets overall, and particularly in low-income, high minority neighbourhoods in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.

Methods Applying Geographic Information Systems and regression analyses to neighbourhood demographics and the location of stores selling tobacco and alcohol, the study predicts the density of tobacco outlets as compared to alcohol outlets at the neighborhood block group level and in relation to the location and demographic composition of public schools.

Results This study found that there are more than double the number of stores that sell tobacco as compared to alcohol in the city of Worcester. For every alcohol vendor there was a 41% increase in the estimated number of tobacco vendors, independent of the effect of other variables. The likelihood of having a tobacco outlet located near a school was greater than having an alcohol outlet as the percentage of minority students in schools increases.

Conclusions Based on these findings, the authors conclude that to reduce the impact of tobacco on socially and economically disadvantaged communities, the issuing of tobacco permits requires more regulation and oversight and should take into consideration the density and actual location of other licensees in an area.

  • Tobacco density
  • youth
  • land use/zoning regulation
  • alcohol
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • advertising and promotion
  • advocacy
  • harm reduction

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  • Funding U Mass Memorial Medical Center/Common Pathways, Massachusetts Youth Against Tobacco, a programme of the Medical Foundation of Boston, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.