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Spatial Anlaysis of Tobacco Outlets, Vape Shops and Cannabis

Institution: University of Southern California
Investigator(s): Patricia Escobedo, M.A.
Award Cycle: 2018 (Cycle 27) Grant #: 27DT-0006 Award: $101,882
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract

Having markets and stores in your neighborhood may make your life easier, but having too many stores that sell tobacco, vaping and marijuana products can be hazardous to the health and safety of your community. Scientists have studied where tobacco stores tend to be located in California and around the country and found that most stores are concentrated in low-income minority communities. Scientists have also found that residents of low-income communities tend to smoke more than people in higher income communities. Having more tobacco products available in stores and shops may lead to more people using tobacco products, which may lead to more health problems among community members. While scientists have written numerous reports about where tobacco stores tend to be located, there are only a few reports focusing on where new products like vape pens and e-cigarettes are being sold. This is important because using vape pens releases vapor that contains chemicals that may be harmful to your health and may contain nicotine, which is an addictive chemical found in cigarettes. In addition, few scientific reports have focused on where medical marijuana dispensaries are located in California or around the country. Tracking medical marijuana stores is especially important because the state of California recently passed Proposition 64, which will allow licensed stores to start selling legalized marijuana to adults over the age of 21 starting in January 2018. The few reports focusing on the location of vape shops, medical marijuana dispensaries, and stores selling legalized marijuana have found that most stores tend to be in low-income minority communities, but more studies are needed.  Understanding how the health of communities is affected by having more tobacco, vape, and marijuana stores than others is an important public health priority. This study will locate and map stores selling tobacco, vaping and e-cigarette and medical and legalized marijuana products within low-income communities of Los Angeles where most residents are African-American, Hispanic/Latino and White. We will use digital maps to look for patterns and calculate how many retailers are in each community and also compare the number of retailers across communities. We will present our findings to city and state officials to help them design licensing and zoning laws that can limit the amount of retailers in communities overburdened by the availability of tobacco, vape and marijuana products to improve public health.