Objective: We assessed the price variability of cigarettes by brand, neighborhood characteristics (racial/ethnic and youth composition, number of schools, and number of stores), and store type.
Methods: Trained research staff purchased three different brands of cigarettes (premium, menthol, and discount-all produced by the same company) at 214 stores in one metropolitan area. We assessed associations between price and neighborhood/store characteristics through multivariate regression, using four price variables as dependent variables-the price of each brand of cigarettes and the mean price across the three brands.
Results: We found that the price of cigarettes varied by neighborhood and store characteristics, although this variability differed by brand. For the same brand, the maximum price was 1.7 to 1.8 times higher than the lowest price. We found a positive association between the percentage of a neighborhood that was nonwhite and the price of discount and premium cigarettes as well as the overall mean price of cigarettes, but not with the price of the menthol brand. We found a negative association between the percentage of youth in a neighborhood and the price of premium cigarettes as well as the mean price, but not with the price of the other two brands. In addition, we found a greater likelihood of higher discount brand prices at independent vs. chain-operated stores.
Conclusions: Our findings showed that cigarette prices do vary by brand, the youth and racial/ethnic composition in a neighborhood, and store type, suggesting that the tobacco industry might vary its marketing strategies based on brand as well as neighborhood and store characteristics.