Introduction: Alternative tobacco products (ATPs), such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), have a strong presence in the US retail environment amid declining cigarette consumption. This study documented the promotion of ATPs in tobacco retailers in New York City and examined associations with neighborhood demographics.
Methods: Data on product availability and advertising were collected from a stratified, random sample of tobacco retailers in 2017 (n = 796). Multilevel models estimated adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) for each outcome by neighborhood racial/ethnic composition and median household income.
Results: Nearly half (49.8%) of retailers carried 99-cent cigarillos, but availability was significantly greater in neighborhoods in the highest (vs. lowest) quartile for the percentage of Black residents [68.2%, aPR: 1.59 (1.19, 2.11)] and in the lowest (vs. highest) income quartile [67.3%, aPR: 1.56 (1.04, 2.35)]. Conversely, retailers in neighborhoods with the highest percentage of White residents were significantly more likely to carry ENDS [66.4%, aPR: 1.71 (1.11, 2.62)]. Advertisements for ENDS were less common in neighborhoods in the highest (vs. lowest) quartiles for the percentage of Black and Hispanic residents [20.3%, aPR: 0.64 (0.41, 0.99); 22.9%, aPR: 0.62 (0.40, 0.98)].
Conclusions: The marketing of inexpensive, combusted tobacco products disproportionately saturates low-income, minority communities, while potentially lower risk, noncombusted products are more accessible in largely White and higher income neighborhoods. This pattern may exacerbate tobacco-related inequities. Public health policies should prioritize reducing the appeal and affordability of the most harmful tobacco products to help reduce health disparities.
Implications: Although cigarette promotion at the point-of-sale is well documented in the literature, questions remain about the ways in which alternative tobacco products (ATPs) are marketed in communities. Importantly, these products fall on a continuum of harm, with combusted tobacco overwhelmingly responsible for tobacco-related death and disease. We found that retailers in minority and low-income communities were more likely to carry and advertise inexpensive ATPs such as cigarillos, while potentially less risky, noncombusted products such as smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes were more accessible in higher income and predominantly White neighborhoods. Policies aligned with product risk may help reduce health disparities.
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