Objective: This study explored the nature and extent of tobacco product availability at retailers near junior, senior and vocational high schools in rural and urban areas in 10 cities across China, including Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenyang, Jinan, Kunming, Guilin, Kaifeng and Baiyin.
Methods: Tobacco sales at 1612 retailers around 904 schools (within 100 m for urban schools and within 250 m for rural schools) were observed by trained data collectors with an online observation form in 2021. Multistage sampling with simple random sampling at each stage was used to select schools from the city district-level/rural county-level divisions. χ2 tests and analyses of variance were used to analyse the data.
Findings: Over half of urban schools (57.0%) and a large majority of rural schools (71.0%) had a cigarette retailer within a 100 m and a 250 m radius, respectively. Nearly all cigarette and electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) retailers displayed tobacco products inside. Majority of cigarette retailers (63.2%) sold flavoured cigarettes, of which 88.6% sold menthol/mint-flavoured cigarettes. Approximately half of these retailers did not display required signage prohibiting sales to minors. Overall, outcomes varied across cities and between urban and rural areas, but not by school type.
Conclusion: Display of tobacco products is very prevalent near schools in 10 cities across China. In contrast, compliance with posting 'no sales to minors' signs is low. Our findings suggest that effective enforcement of prohibiting tobacco retailers around schools and stronger restrictions on tobacco displays and flavoured cigarettes and e-cigarettes are needed to protect youth in China.
Keywords: Advertising and Promotion; Low/Middle income country; Public policy.
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