If You Must Walk Farther For Cigarettes, You're More Likely to Quit Smoking

Having to walk farther to a cigarette store increases the likelihood of quitting smoking. Marcelo del Pozo / REUTERS

Laziness may be a powerful aid in the effort to get people to quit smoking tobacco.

New research shows that the farther people have to walk to buy cigarettes, the more likely they are to quit. A study published August 15 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that each one-third mile increase in the distance between a person's house and a store with cigarettes was associated with a 20 to 60 percent increase in likelihood of quitting. The study includes detailed information on more than 20,000 adults in Finland.

Longer distances increase the time and money necessary for smoke-schlepping, and the authors speculate that these costs help increase the likelihood of quitting. The researchers, mostly from Finland's University of Turku, found that the results held up when they controlled for a bunch of potentially confounding factors, including socioeconomic and health status.

However, distance to a cig store didn't seem to affect the probability of whether or not somebody relapsed into smoking again. The scientists think that there may be more powerful forces at work than distance when it comes to taking up the habit again, such as the presence of other smokers near home or at work.

The findings may not easily translate to other countries such as the United States, since Finland has strict laws forbidding tobacco advertisements, which may decrease the likelihood of quitting, according to the study.