Characteristics of Storefront Tobacco Advertisements and Differences by Product Type: A Content Analysis of Retailers in New York City, USA

Prev Med. 2019 Jun;123:204-207. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.03.045. Epub 2019 Mar 28.


Tobacco companies in the U.S. spend billions of dollars advertising at the point-of-sale. Using photographs of storefront tobacco ads in New York City (NYC), we conducted a content analysis to describe the prevalence of common features across four product categories and illuminate ways in which they may influence behavior. In 2017, data collectors photographed exterior ads from a representative sample of tobacco retailers in NYC (n = 796). We coded each ad (n = 976) for the presence of various characteristics (e.g., brand, price displays, warning labels, menthol/flavors, size, location). Chi-square tests examined differences by product type. Most ads were for cigarettes (40%), followed by electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS, 27.9%), cigars (26.9%), and smokeless tobacco (5.2%). Over half of cigarette and smokeless tobacco ads promoted a menthol or flavored style (61% each), compared to about a quarter of cigar (25.9%) and ENDS ads (30.3%, p < .0001). Cigar and ENDS ads, however, were more frequently placed directly on the door of entry (49.4% and 46.7%, respectively, p < .001). Only 5% of ENDS ads displayed a standard warning label. Notably, a quarter of all tobacco ads (23.4%) were for the brand Newport. Cigarette ads still dominate at the point-of-sale with regard to volume and size. Across all products, ad features did not always align with local and federal policies (e.g., flavor bans, warning label mandates). Continued surveillance of advertising strategies and policy compliance can help provide the evidence base needed to inform marketing regulations that reduce the deadly burden of tobacco use.

Keywords: Advertising; Content analysis; Policy; Retail; Tobacco.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Marketing / methods*
  • New York City
  • Product Labeling / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Industry / methods*
  • Tobacco Industry / trends
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Population