Introduction: Single-cigarette sales have been associated with increased cigarette accessibility to less educated, lower-income populations, and minors; lower immediate cost, and increased smoking cues. Since 1997, Guatemalan Law bans the sale of single cigarettes and packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes. In 2005, Guatemala ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC); it is therefore obliged to "prohibit sale of cigarettes individually or in small packets."
Methods: Blocks were numbered and randomly selected in Guatemala City and 3 neighboring towns. All stores in each block were surveyed. Single-cigarette and fewer than 20-cigarette pack sales were assessed by observation and purchase attempts. Cigarette brands and manufacturers (Philip Morris, PM or British American Tobacco, BAT) were also recorded. Percentages and means were used to describe data. Analyses were done using STATA 11.0.
Results: Of 398 stores and street vendors surveyed, 75.6% (301) sold cigarettes. Of these, 91% (275) sold single cigarettes and none sold fewer than 20-cigarette packs. Only informal economic sectors sold singles. There was no difference on sales between Guatemala City and neighboring towns and by store type. Buying 20 single cigarettes was US$ 0.83 more expensive than buying a 20-cigarette pack. The most prevalent brands were Rubios (PM), Marlboro (PM), Payasos (BAT), and After Hours (BAT).
Conclusions: Single-cigarettes sales are highly prevalent among informal economic sectors in Guatemala City and its neighboring towns. Our data should prove useful to advocate for FCTC Article 16 enforcement in Guatemala.