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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 17, 2005

UI Researchers Examine Effect Of Race On Smoking, Tobacco Outlet Density

The relationship between tobacco outlet density and smoking prevalence is greater in Iowa counties with a higher percentage of African Americans, according to three studies co-authored by University of Iowa researchers. The studies are among the first to examine the effect of race on the geographic association between tobacco outlet density and cigarette smoking prevalence.

Tobacco use kills more than 440,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has a significant impact on the health of African Americans. Of the three leading causes of death in African Americans - heart disease, cancer and stroke - smoking and other tobacco use are major contributors. More than one in five African American adults is a smoker, the CDC reports.

"An important public health and policy question is whether tobacco companies are increasing their presence in disadvantaged, racially diverse communities to increase sales of their product," said John Lowe, Dr.P.H., UI professor and head of community and behavioral health and a co-author of the studies. "The aim of these studies was to determine whether an area's high disadvantaged concentration is a factor in the link between the density of tobacco-selling retail outlets and the prevalence of smoking."

In two of the studies, the investigators used U.S. census and state data to determine the tobacco outlet density, percentage of African American residents and adult cigarette-smoking prevalence rates in each of Iowa's 99 counties. Data analysis revealed that the statistical association between tobacco outlet density and smoking prevalence was stronger in Iowa counties with higher percentages of African Americans.

The researchers also conducted a third, related tobacco outlet study that focused exclusively on Polk County, Iowa. The investigators found that census tracts with the lowest household incomes and highest proportions of African American and Latino residents had more than twice as many tobacco outlets per 10 kilometers of roadway compared to wealthier, less diverse tracts.

"Our findings have important implications for future tobacco control initiatives, particularly land-use policies," said co-author N. Andrew Peterson, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of community and behavioral health. "One such control initiative is to enact zoning laws that decrease the density of tobacco outlets in a given area. The idea is that smokers will have to travel farther, and in effect spend more, to obtain cigarettes, which will discourage the smoking habit."

The first study appeared in the June 2005 issue of the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, and included co-investigators Robert J. Reid, Ph.D., of Rutgers University and Joseph Hughey, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The second study was published in the October 2005 issue of Substance Use & Misuse. The third study, authored with John Schneider, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of health management and policy, appeared in the September 2005 online issue of Prevention Science.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647,