Tobacco Density

Social Justice and Equity for all San Franciscans

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in San Francisco.  It also costs roughly $400 million annually.1  There are nearly 1000 tobacco retailers in San Francisco, which are unevenly distributed among the Supervisorial Districts (districts have roughly the same population size).  Many of these tobacco retailers are located in communities of color and low income areas of the City that also have high number of youths such as the Tenderloin, The Mission District, Bayview/Hunter’s Point, and Chinatown.  The high density of tobacco retailers is linked to higher availability, increased usage, and tobacco related disease and death.2-5

This issue was first recognized by the advocates of the Tobacco Use Reduction Force (TURF) of the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI).  They saw the disparity in the distribution of tobacco permits in their own neighborhoods.  With funding and technical assistance from the San Francisco Tobacco Free Project to implement a Community Action Model project, these youth advocates chose to begin a campaign to address this issue.  Their many years of work are documented in this case study.

12-4-14 Density Hearing Group Photo 3

Video of Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee Meeting (12/4/14)

In December 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the Tobacco Permit Density Reduction Ordinance.  The goal of this ordinance is to reduce the disproportionate burden of tobacco outlets and minimize tobacco influences in ALL supervisorial districts.

Tobacco Use Reduction Force (YLI) Public Service Announcements on Density


(Updated June 2022)

New Research:

1. Max W, Sung H-Y, Shi Y, & Stark B. The Cost of Smoking in California, 2009. San Francisco, CA: Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco, 2014.

2. Chuang, J.  Effects of neighbourhood socioeconomic status and convenience store concentration on individual level smoking, J Epidemiol Community Health, 2005; 59: 568-573

3. Novak, S. P., Reardon, S.F., Raudenbush, S. W., & Buka, S. L. (2006).  Retail tobacco outlet density and youth cigarette smoking: a propensity modeling approach. American Journal of Public Health, 96, 670-676

4. Henriksen, L, Feighery, E. C., Schleicher, N. C., Cowling, D. W., Kline, R. S., & Fortmann, S. P. (2008).  Is adolescent smoking related to the density and proximity of tobacco outlets and retail cigarette advertising near schools? Preventive Medicine, 47, 210-214

5. Leatherdale, S. T, & Strath, J.M. (2007). Tobacco Retailer Density Surrounding Schools and Cigarette Access Behaviors Among Underage Smoking Students. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33(1), 105-111.