Disparities in tobacco marketing and product availability at the point of sale: Results of a national study

Prev Med. 2017 Dec:105:381-388. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.010. Epub 2017 Apr 6.


Objective: Neighborhood socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities exist in the amount and type of tobacco marketing at retail, but most studies are limited to a single city or state, and few have examined flavored little cigars. Our purpose is to describe tobacco product availability, marketing, and promotions in a national sample of retail stores and to examine associations with neighborhood characteristics.

Methods: At a national sample of 2230 tobacco retailers in the contiguous US, we collected in-person store audit data on: Availability of products (e.g., flavored cigars), quantity of interior and exterior tobacco marketing, presence of price promotions, and marketing with youth appeal. Observational data were matched to census tract demographics.

Results: Over 95% of stores displayed tobacco marketing; the average store featured 29.5 marketing materials. 75.1% of stores displayed at least one tobacco product price promotion, including 87.2% of gas/convenience stores and 85.5% of pharmacies. 16.8% of stores featured marketing below three feet, and 81.3% of stores sold flavored cigars, both of which appeal to youth. Stores in neighborhoods with the highest (vs. lowest) concentration of African-American residents had more than two times greater odds of displaying a price promotion (OR=2.1) and selling flavored cigars (OR=2.6). Price promotions were also more common in stores located in neighborhoods with more residents under age 18.

Conclusions and relevance: Tobacco companies use retail marketing extensively to promote their products to current customers and youth, with disproportionate targeting of African Americans. Local, state, and federal policies are needed to counteract this unhealthy retail environment.

Keywords: Advertising; Cigarette smoking; Disparities; Marketing; Point of sale; Retail.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Commerce*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marketing / methods
  • Marketing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • United States