Low income link with alcohol and tobacco

Scotland’s most deprived areas have more alcohol and tobacco shops than wealthier parts of the country, a study suggests.

Areas with the lowest average household incomes have the highest number of alcohol and tobacco outlets per head of population, researchers found. The most well-off areas have the fewest.

The pattern may be a contributing factor to inequalities in rates of alcohol and tobacco-related disease, researchers say.

Public health

One in five deaths in Scotland is caused by tobacco use, while one in 20 is linked to alcohol.

Deprived neighbourhoods have higher rates of death and ill health caused by alcohol and tobacco use than more affluent areas.

Reducing the concentration of shops selling these products could help improve public health and address health inequalities, the team says.

Policy conference

The findings will be presented at an event tomorrow (Wednesday 7 October) at which Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will deliver the keynote speech.

The Global Alcohol Policy Conference takes place in Edinburgh from 7-9 October.

Researchers are urging policymakers to consider the links between deprivation, outlet density and disease when drawing up tobacco and alcohol policies.

Outlet density

The team used alcohol licensing data and a tobacco retail register to calculate the density of outlets.

Links with deprivation were assessed using figures from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, which show the proportion of people receiving means-tested benefits and other government support.

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, was funded by the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy. It was carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

Data and maps from the study are available from the CRESH website.

We need to alter the environments in which people live, including restricting the availability of these products. Failing to tackle a broader set of factors, including retail environments, may exacerbate health inequalities.

Dr Niamh ShorttSenior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh

Related Links

CRESH data and maps

Geography and the Lived Environment Research Institute

School of GeoSciences - Undergraduate Study

School of GeoSciences - Postgraduate Study

School of GeoSciences - Doctoral Study