Objectives: Exposure to tobacco marketing has been associated with an increased likelihood that youth start smoking and may interfere with tobacco cessation. We aimed to describe the prevalence, placement, and features of tobacco advertising at the point of sale by race, ethnicity, and other neighborhood demographics, as well as by store type.
Design: A cross-sectional assessment of the advertising environment in establishments that held tobacco licenses in our study region (a metropolitan area in the Midwest USA) was conducted in 2007. Stores were geocoded and linked with block group demographic data taken from the Year 2000 US census. We calculated associations between our hypothesized predictors, race, ethnicity, and other neighborhood demographics, and two types of outcomes (1) amount and (2) characteristics of the advertising.
Results: Tobacco advertising at the point of sale was most common in gas stations/convenience stores, liquor stores, and tobacco stores. A 10% difference in a block group's African-American/Black population was associated with 9% (95% confidence interval [CI]=3%, 16%) more ads as well as a greater likelihood that ads would be close to the ground (prevalence ratio [PR]=1.15 [95% CI=1.04, 1.28]). Block groups with greater African-American/Black, Asian, people on public assistance or below 150% of the poverty threshold, or people under the age of 18 years had more ads for menthol brands. Block groups with greater proportions of Whites were more likely to have ads that used health words, such as 'light' or 'natural' (PR for 10% difference in White population=1.41 [95% CI=1.17-1.70]). Chain stores were more likely to have greater amounts of advertising, ads close to the ground, ads for price deals, or ads that use words that imply health.
Conclusion: Tobacco advertising targets communities with various racial and ethnic profiles in different ways. Now that US Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate the marketing and sale of tobacco products, there is new opportunity to reduce the harmful impact of tobacco advertising.