Objective: This study examined differences in the availability and advertising of flavored tobacco products before and after flavored tobacco sales restrictions were enacted in Alameda and San Francisco Counties in California.
Main outcome measures: Data were collected from a sample of tobacco retailers in Alameda and San Francisco Counties at two time points: 2015, before flavored tobacco policies were enacted, and in 2019-2020, after some cities had enacted policies. Retailers were separated by city into Category 1 (n = 442)-retailers in cities that enacted a flavored tobacco policy between the two data collection periods, and Category 2 (n = 89), those that had not. Means comparison tests were conducted to evaluate significant differences over time and by category.
Results: There was significantly reduced availability of menthol cigarettes, flavored little cigars, smokeless tobacco, vape pens, and Blu brand menthol e-cigarettes between 2015 and 2020 in Category 1 retailers. Category 2 retailers had reduced availability only for Blu menthol e-cigarettes and demonstrated an increase in smokeless tobacco availability. Exterior store advertising for cigarettes, little cigars, cigars, and e-cigarettes also decreased significantly in Category 1 cities relative to Category 2 cities; 8.1% of Category 1 stores were advertising flavored tobacco products in 2019-2020 compared to 36.2% of Category 2 stores. There was also a 78% reduction in flavored ads between 2015-2019 in Category 1 cities compared to a 38% decrease in Category 2 cities. Tobacco advertising inside Category 2 stores increased. Finally, Category 2 cities had significantly greater availability of cigalikes, mod or tank vapes, flavored e-cigarettes, and e-liquids compared to Category 1 cities.
Conclusions: Comprehensive flavored sales restriction policies reduce flavored tobacco availability and tobacco advertising, which may help prevent youth tobacco initiation and exposure.
Keywords: health policy; prevention; tobacco control; youth.