The number of tobacco shops in an area could affect teenagers' smoking habits, according to recent research from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Teens who live close to several tobacco shops are nearly 50 percent more likely to start smoking than those who do not.
The study renews an international years-old debate about whether the availability and proximity of tobacco increases the likelihood that people would start smoking, and the results could impact governments trying to develop tobacco-control laws. Often, efforts are aimed at decreasing tobacco outlets near schools, but the Edinburgh research did not find any link between school-area tobacco shops and teens' likelihood of smoking. In Scotland, where the government has set a goal of becoming a tobacco-free country by 2034, policies should target homes, not necessarily schools, the research found.
The researchers surveyed more than 20,000 students ages 13 to 15 about their smoking habits and how close they live to any of the 10,161 registered tobacco outlets in Scotland. About 10 percent of the respondents said they smoke regularly, and 28 percent said they have smoked at least once. Teens in areas with the highest densities of tobacco retailers are 47 percent more likely to smoke and 53 percent more likely to try smoking at some point.
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