Researchers Use Photo Mapping To Analyze Tobacco Ads near Schools

Beginning with a project in Greece, a country where almost 40% of its adult population smokes, public health researchers utilized photo mapping as a tool to examine tobacco advertising near public schools in 2007. Health officials and epidemiologists have used photo mapping, “a process in which geotagged photographs are accurately placed on a digital map to graphically track the spread of disease within or across a geographic area”. (

By observing the prevalence and proximity of the tobacco advertisements to public schools, researchers found that school children who were more exposed to these ads were more likely to experiment with cigarettes and other tobacco products. This finding lead public health officials to utilize geospatial mapping technologies to determine how many tobacco ads were exposed to middle and high school students during walks to and from school and even in outdoor recess periods. In this study, public officials in Greece mapped every tobacco ad within 300 meters of each school to study the aforementioned target group

Through the use of both photo mapping and GIS, researchers gain knowledge on the spread of a disease and track where the next outbreak could occur. In addition, the digital maps produced by the combination of these technologies allow researchers to identify clusters of a disease and aid in determining the causes of the disease. Unlike other methods of research, these digital maps make it easier for both researchers and public users to visualize the points of interest and their relation to other important health and environmental factors.

Constantine Vardavas, a Public Health Researcher at the University of Crete and the head researcher in this study, further explains, “Photo-mapping provides concrete evidence. We use the GPS technologies to document the proximity of tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds to create science that can influence policy. It’s an approach that uses high technology in a low-budget manner.”

For more information on this study, click here for information on Vardavas’ research paper entitled “Geographical information systems as a tool for monitoring tobacco industry advertising. Additional information is also available on GISUser.

Sources and picture taken directly from:

C. Vardavas, Department of Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Crete

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s