Documenting the impact potential of a menthol cigarette ban at point-of-sale: A photograph-based analysis of the presence and placement of menthol versus regular cigarette packs on the shelves of tobacco retail outlets in New York City

Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 Jun 3;ntac140. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac140. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: Investigate the absolute and proportionate number of menthol versus regular cigarette packs displayed on the shelves inside tobacco retail outlets (TROs) across New York City (NYC).

Methods: Photographic surveillance methods were employed to capture the presence and proportionate amount of all visible cigarette packs on the shelves inside N=160 TROs. Statistical analyses examined the absolute and proportionate number of menthol packs in each TRO as a function of NYC borough, the local TRO environment, population smoking rates derived from the NYC Community Health Survey, and other demographic indicators from the American Community Survey.

Results: The total number of cigarette packs on the shelves of each TRO and the proportion of menthol packs varied significantly across TROs, averaging about one quarter of all packs displayed (M=0.274; SD=0.15). Modeling results indicate that the proportion of menthol packs displayed was significantly greater in areas with elevated population smoking rates (OR=1.03, CI:1.01-1.06) and density of TROs per 1,000 residents (OR=1.23; CI:1.01-1.49), although these associations varied in complex ways with the proportion living under the federal poverty level and the proportion under age 18 residing within each zip code.

Conclusions: Results of this study demonstrate the utility of photograph-based TRO audit methods for objective, reliable documentation of the presence and proportionate amount of menthol versus other cigarette pack types on TRO shelves and highlight the need to account for sources of variation between small areas when examining the TRO product landscape and evaluating the effectiveness of regulatory actions against menthol.