This article was originally published here
Soc Sci Med. 2021 Oct 8;291:114460. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114460. Online ahead of print.
The tobacco retail environment is where most advertising dollars are spent. However, most research on the retail environment has not methodologically situated tobacco retailers as part of a larger community, and few studies have incorporated community member perspectives of their own tobacco use in relation to their local environments. The purpose of this study is to describe and evaluate a multilevel, multimodal, mixed methods approach for understanding tobacco use in context. We combine quantitative data collected from tobacco retailer audits and geographically-explicit interviews with neighborhood residents to tell a more complete story of tobacco use behavior among adults in San Francisco’s Marina district, and the Oakland Coliseum neighborhood in Alameda County, California. We find that while area-level and retail data provide a broad snapshot of two distinct communities with respect to sociodemographic characteristics and tobacco availability, interviews with community residents who use tobacco add important perspectives regarding how tobacco retailers are viewed and how residents interact with their neighborhood landscapes on a daily basis. The method we describe and critique has the potential to be scaled to incorporate a broader set of geographies, or tailored to address a multitude of health-related questions. Our approach further demonstrates the utility of including geolocated participant narratives as a means of understanding where researcher interpretations of urban environments diverge from those of community residents.