Research Portfolio

Funding Opportunities

Join our Mailing List
Join our mailing list to be notified of new funding opportunities.

Your Email

To receive information about funding opportunities, events, and program updates.

Geography of underage tobacco retail sales in Los Angeles

Institution: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
Investigator(s): Robert Lipton, BA, MA, MPH, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2003 (Cycle 12) Grant #: 12RT-0093 Award: $622,260
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
According to recent information, teens in Los Angeles are successful about 33% of the time in attempts to illegally purchase tobacco from retail outlets. Two years ago, Los Angeles enacted an ordinance that sought to limit underage tobacco sales through a series of actions such as licensing tobacco retailers, conducting underage sales checks and tracking offenders and repeat offenders. Although Los Angeles is actively involved in tobacco compliance enforcement and information gathering, there is a little systematic understanding of the socio-demographic, vendor, customer and community context in which compliance occurs. In response to this need we describe the spatial distribution of compliance, in regard to the above mentioned factors, as a way to more fully include information that may bear on compliance enforcement and intervention. We use underage compliance “sting” information from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, (689 randomly chosen compliance checks were conducted in 2001 out of a universe of 4000 possible tobacco outlets) Of these checks, 231 violations were issued. For the 814 census tracks in LA City, 82% had full or at least 75% compliance, while 7% had more than 75% violations. In 2003, underage tobacco compliance throughout the city of LA was approximately 36%. The likelihood of compliance shows spatial variations that will be explored in this analysis. Preliminary data show that non-compliance is highest in densely populated areas in the central and eastern parts of Los Angeles city.

The purpose of this proposed project is to identify what places (census tracts and block groups) in LA City have the greatest concentration of underage tobacco sales compliance and non-compliance. In addition, we will seek to estimate to what extent specific census tracts have higher or lower than expected rates of compliance in the city. To this end, data from the 2000 census and underage selling compliance data (outlet density, outlet location, outlet characteristics, under age decoy and vendor information) by the city of Los Angeles, through the authority of California’s Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) act legislation (see Appendix 1) will be used to describe underage tobacco sales in LA city.

There are three general goals of this research: 1) To improve targeting of compliance enforcement and intervention efforts by identifying census areas in Los Angeles, over a three year period, where compliance is relatively low. 2) To improve enforcement and compliance through a better understanding of the socio-demographic and vendor-customer context in which compliance/non-compliance occurs. 3) To provide a baseline from which to develop, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, more coherent prevention and enforcement interventions at the community level for 2002-2004.

Although at a preliminary stage of the research, we have already produced one conference paper describing the socio-demographic context of underage age tobacco sales in LA as well as relating such sales to school location. Data from this research was also used for a press conference by the LA Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the LA city Attorney’s office, June 25, 2004.

Other related preliminary findings:

Underage tobacco sales in Los Angeles were very high for the entire city in 2001, 33.5%.

In many zip codes this rate is considerably higher, 60-100%.

Those places with the highest violation rates were found in the most densely populated zip codes.

Denser population areas are more likely to have schools close to tobacco outlets and to have a greater proportion of these outlets sell to minors.

This argument is bolstered by the finding that more than 33% of all violations occur within 1,000 feet of a school.

As violations go up in a given zip code, there is a close positive association between violating outlets and schools within 1,000 feet of the outlets.

In the future, we will be focusing quite intensely on the relationship between tobacco outlets and schools. Not only will we model direct distances to schools, we will additionally conduct a network analysis of “paths” between schools and outlets. This will allow us a more “real world” understanding of access to tobacco and school location.