Smoking continues to be the number one cause of premature mortality in the US. The tobacco industry deliberately targets marginalized communities. Better urban zoning policy may reduce these harms.

For the attention of: City councils, local health departments, tobacco control organizations

The problem: Existing tobacco laws and policies have been less effective for reducing smoking rates in lower-income and predominant racial/ethnic minority communities. This may be in large part because stores that sell cigarettes concentrate in these same communities, which are supported by the tobacco industry. More stores selling cigarettes in these communities means more marketing and advertising, lower prices, easier access, and social norms more tolerant of smoking,

What we did and why: We assessed the potential of using a novel, residentially focused zoning approach to produce a more targeted and equitable reduction of tobacco retailers in high-risk urban settings. We focused on Wilmington, Delaware, a city with high poverty rates, a majority Black population, a disparate number of tobacco retailers, and an elevated smoking prevalence.

What our study adds: The results of the study suggest that new regulations of tobacco stores in residential areas of lower-income, predominant minority cities have the potential to help reduce the chances of youth starting smoking and increase the chances of current smokers quitting.

Implications for city policy and practice: By engaging the community and local store owners, city governments can advance social justice and health equity by putting in place new restrictions on selling tobacco products in residential areas.

Full research article: Reducing exposure to tobacco retailers with residential zoning policy: insights from a geospatial analysis of Wilmington, DelawareScott D. Siegel, Madeline Brooks, Jason Bourke & Frank C. Curriero