The farther smokers live from cigarette retailers, the more likely they are to quit, based on results of a longitudinal Finnish study of nearly 21,000 smokers.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, this study looked at the association between residential access to cigarettes and smoking status. Many studies suggest that easier access to cigarettes increases chances of smoking, but findings have been inconsistent.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Finnish Public Sector study and the Health and Social Support study. The Finnish Public Sector study included employees from various occupations in Finland, while the Social Support Study included a representative sample of the Finnish population. Together, both studies included a total of 20,729 past or present smokers, all of which completed periodic surveys on health and lifestyle between 2003 and 2012.
Based on survey responses, 8,349 participants were smokers and 12,380 were ex-smokers at the beginning of the study. After following participants for up to nine years, researchers found that nearly one-third of smokers quit over the study period, while 7% of ex-smokers relapsed.
Similar to past findings, distance to the nearest tobacco outlet had a significant impact on chances of quitting. Among smokers, every 1/3 mile increase in distance from home to tobacco outlet was associated with a 16% increase in chances of quitting, after taking into account factors like income and health status.
However, researchers note that there was no significant association between access to tobacco outlets and chances of smoking relapse among ex-smokers.
Based on findings, authors believe that reducing access to tobacco outlets in residential areas could be a useful tool to combat smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and reducing smoking is a major public health goal in the U.S. and worldwide. While education is a key component of anti-smoking efforts, policy change is also needed to tip the scale when it comes to ending smoking. Reducing the number of stores that sell cigarettes, particularly in residential areas, may offer yet another way to help eliminate smoking and improve America’s health.