Retail Tobacco Density and Access

The tobacco industry spends nearly $1,000,000 every hour on retail advertising and price discounts to support sales at hundreds of thousands of tobacco retailers in the United States.

National Press Release

Executive Summary

Data Overview

The ASPiRE Center mapped tobacco retailers in the 30 cities represented on our ASPiRE Community Advisory Board. We developed tailored Tobacco Retailer Density Fact Sheets and “Tobacco Swamps” Maps to provide each city with usable snapshots of its tobacco retail environment. Use these resources, along with shareable social graphics and press releases for all 30 cities, to support the increasing number of local tobacco control interventions that address the retail environment.

Together, the fact sheets and maps illustrate that across the ASPiRE cities tobacco retailers are:

Located near schools

On average, 63% of public schools are within 1,000 feet (about 2 city blocks) of a tobacco retailer. This ranged from 33% in San Diego to 94% in New York City.

Concentrated in lower-income areas

On average, the number of tobacco retailers per square mile is nearly 5 times more in the lowest-income neighborhoods than in the highest-income neighborhoods. This difference was largest in Memphis (over 12 times more) and smallest in Chicago (no difference).

Easy to access

On average, 70% of city residents live within ½ mile (~10 minute walk) of a tobacco retailer. This ranged from 42% in Charlotte to 94% in New York City. Maps illustrate “tobacco swamps,” which are areas with a glut of tobacco retailers.

Clustered together

On average, 54% of tobacco retailers are within 500 feet (~2 minute walk) of another tobacco retailer. This ranged from 42% in Fort Worth to 76% in Miami.


There are 31 times more tobacco retailers than McDonald’s restaurants and 16 times more retailers than Starbucks. In the 30 ASPiRE cities, there are 40,856 tobacco retailers and about 375,000 nationwide (as of 2012).

Click on your city to view tobacco retailer density and related resources.

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August 12, 2020

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