Introduction: The sale of tobacco products within American pharmacies has generated controversy for several decades, leading two U.S. states and 45 municipalities to adopt tobacco-free pharmacy policies. While previous research has reported cheaper cigarette prices in pharmacies, compared to other retailers, little is known about cigarette promotions in pharmacies, which are associated with increased youth smoking and unplanned cigarette purchases among adults.
Aims and methods: Between May and August 2015, trained data collectors conducted store audits at 2128 tobacco retailers located within 97 U.S. counties in 40 states. Observations were made for three types of cigarette promotions: special price (e.g., $0.30 off/pack), multi-pack promotions (e.g., buy one pack, get one free), and cross-product promotions (e.g., buy a pack of cigarettes and a get free can of snus). We calculated weighted estimates of the proportion of pharmacies and other retailer types with cigarette promotions and used weighted multivariable logistic regression to compare cigarette promotions by tobacco retailer type, accounting for clustering at the county level and controlling for county-level demographic characteristics.
Results: Cigarette promotions were observed in 94.0% of pharmacies, more than any other retailer type (e.g., convenience stores: 82.0%, tobacco stores: 77.0%). All retailer types had lower odds of promotions for Marlboro, Newport, Camel, menthol, or any interior cigarette promotion, compared to pharmacies.
Conclusions: Nearly all pharmacies offered in-store cigarette promotions and pharmacies had greater odds of offering cigarette promotions than all other retailer types. Whether voluntarily or legislatively, tobacco-free pharmacies would eliminate a prevalent retail source of cigarette promotions.
Implications: This is the first known national study to examine prevalence of cigarette promotions in U.S. pharmacies compared to other retailer types. Nearly all pharmacies offered in-store cigarette promotions and pharmacies had greater odds of offering cigarette promotions than all other retailer types. These findings underscore the inherent contradiction of pharmacies serving both as an important component of the health care system, but also as purveyors and promotors of addictive and lethal tobacco products. Whether voluntarily or legislatively, tobacco-free pharmacy policies would eliminate a prevalent retail source of cigarette promotions.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco 2021.