La Trobe
1391627_Baker,J_2023.pdf (1.48 MB)

Tobacco retailer density and smoking behaviour: how are exposure and outcome measures classified? A systematic review

Download (1.48 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-13, 23:21 authored by John BakerJohn Baker, K Lenz, Mohd MasoodMohd Masood, Muhammad RahmanMuhammad Rahman, Stephen BeggStephen Begg
Introduction: To date only a limited number of reviews have focused on how exposure and outcome measures are defined in the existing literature on associations between tobacco retailer density (‘density’) and smoking behaviour (‘smoking’). Therefore this systematic review classified and summarised how both density and smoking variables are operationalised in the existing literature, and provides several methodological recommendations for future density and smoking research. Methods: Two literature searches between March and April 2018 and April 2022 were conducted across 10 databases. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed and keyword database searches were undertaken. Studies were imported into Covidence. Cross-sectional studies that met the inclusion criteria were extracted and a quality assessment was undertaken. Studies were categorised according to the density measure used, and smoking was re-categorised using a modified classification tool. Results: Large heterogeneity was found in the operationalisation of both measures in the 47 studies included for analysis. Density was most commonly measured directly from geocoded locations using circular buffers at various distances (n = 14). After smoking was reclassified using a smoking classification tool, past-month smoking was the most common smoking type reported (n = 26). Conclusions: It is recommended that density is measured through length-distance and travel time using the street network and weighted (e.g. by the size of an area), or by using Kernel Density Estimates as these methods provide a more accurate measure of geographical to tobacco and e-cigarette retailer density. The consistent application of a smoking measures classification tool, such as the one developed for this systematic review, would enable better comparisons between studies. Future research should measure exposure and outcome measures in a way that makes them comparable with other studies. Implications: This systematic review provides a strong case for improving data collection and analysis methodologies in studies assessing tobacco retailer density and smoking behaviour to ensure that both exposure and outcome measures are clearly defined and captured. As large heterogeneity was found in the operationalisation of both density and smoking behaviour measures in the studies included for analysis, there is a need for future studies to capture, measure and classify exposure measures accurately, and to define outcome measures in a manner that makes them comparable with other studies.


La Trobe University provided the primary researcher with a scholarship, professional supervision, assistance with the design of the study, data analysis and interpretation, access to resources such as a computer and printing equipment, library resources and other expertise. This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.


Publication Date



BMC Public Health



Article Number





Springer Nature



Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles



    Ref. manager