Purpose: To describe the availability of tobacco to youth in two urban communities, as a basis for designing a community-based intervention program.
Design: Two Midwestern U.S. urban communities were the setting for unannounced tobacco compliance checks. The population of retailers for this study included all convenience stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and discount stores licensed by the state to sell tobacco products in the two communities. Establishments where entry is restricted to adults were not included. The total population of retailers was used as the sample, and two purchases were attempted at each retail outlet.
Methods: Cigarette purchases by female teens and the location of cigarettes in stores were documented. Compliance-check procedures were planned with needed protections for retailers and youth.
Findings: Adolescent tobacco purchase rates were near the federal recommendations for the two urban communities. Retailer use of self-service displays was higher than expected. Availability of the designated brand for self-service was significantly associated with the purchase rate of tobacco by underage youth.
Conclusions: Self-service displays provide increased availability of tobacco to teens. Teen smoking and youth access to tobacco could be limited by legislation and policies to restrict retailer use of self-service displays.