In Santa Clara County, GIS methods were used to analyze the effectiveness tobacco permitting policies targeting youth smoking. The legislation was implemented in order to curb the access of middle-school and high-school students to tobacco retailers, especially in and around school and housing areas. The specific reasoning behind the restrictions was that "44% of middle school students and 51% of high school students reported that they were not refused purchase because of their age" (Coxe et al. 2014) in a survey conducted in 2011.
So, how does this have anything to do with GIS so far? Well, the focused area was the unincorporated portion of the county (not cities) which are spread out and hard to enforce. GIS was used in order to see the relation between stores that closed down or did not renew their license and areas with high population densities of people under 18. In many areas, there is the problem of having different types of stores (grocery, gift shops, donut shops) selling tobacco products and increasing ease of access to minors. These non-traditional tobacco stores incidentally were the worst offenders when it came to letting minors purchase cigarettes at a 20% youth success rate. They also saw effects of stores being too close to one another after the restrictions, which usually caused one to not renew its license due to competition.
The GIS mapping results showed that of the 36 retailers before the intervention, 11 discontinued selling tobacco products. Of the retailers that discontinued due to the restrictions on advertising and sale, one was within 500ft of another retailer. Three of the four located within 1000ft of a K-12 school discontinued selling tobacco as well. Ten of the eleven that discontinued were non-traditional outlets. This shows a relationship between tobacco sales and ease of access to minors, the "normal" tobacco retailers where not the ones to shut down and they were not located in areas with high minor density.
These findings could be a big step in curbing the problem that is youth smoking. This GIS approach can be used in other parts of the country to map out tobacco retail licenses in relation to schools and minor populations.
Source: Coxe, N., Webber, W., Burkhart, J., Broderick, B., Yeager, K., Jones, L., & Fenstersheib, M. (2014). Use of tobacco retail permitting to reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco in Santa Clara County, California. Preventive medicine, 67, S46-S50.