Tobacco advertising in retail stores

Public Health Rep. 1991 Sep-Oct;106(5):570-5.


Recent studies have described tobacco advertising in the print media, on billboards, and through sponsorship of cultural and sporting events. However, little attention has been given to another common and unavoidable source of tobacco advertising, that which is encountered in retail stores. In July 1987, we conducted a survey of 61 packaged goods retail stores in Buffalo, NY, to assess the prevalence and type of point-of-sale tobacco advertising. In addition, store owners or managers were surveyed to determine their store's policy regarding tobacco advertising, receipt of monetary incentives from distributors for displaying tobacco ads, and willingness to display antitobacco ads. Six types of stores were involved in the study: 10 supermarkets, 10 privately owned grocery stores, 9 chain convenience food stores that do not sell gasoline, 11 chain convenience food stores that sell gasoline, 11 chain pharmacies, and 10 private pharmacies. Two-thirds of the stores displayed tobacco posters, and 87 percent had promotional items advertising tobacco products, primarily cigarettes. Larger stores, and those that were privately owned, tended to display more posters and promotional items. Eighty percent of tobacco product displays were for cigarettes, 16 percent for smokeless tobacco products, and 4 percent for cigars and pipe tobacco. Convenience stores selling gasoline had the most separate tobacco product displays. Of tobacco product displays, 24 percent were located adjacent to candy and snack displays. Twenty-nine of the 61 store owners or managers indicated that their store had a policy regulating the display of tobacco ads and tobacco product displays. Policies dealt primarily with the location of tobacco posters (for example, no ads in the window) and number of product displays. Only 14 shop owners or managers indicated that they had previously displayed antitobacco information; more than half (31 of 61) said that they would be willing to display antitobaccoads.In many stores space availability is a barrier to displaying antitobacco information. Materials should be designed that have some utility for the store, such as posters that list store hours or directional information (that is, in and out signs).Antitobacco messages could also be displayed on check out dividers, check out mats, shopping carts,shopping bags, and milk cartons. In chain stores,decisions regarding the display of antitobacco information are likely to be made at the corporate level. Standards encouraging retailers to adopt more responsible policies related to advertising and sale of tobacco products should be established.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising*
  • Humans
  • Smoking*