1. POS Work Takes Center Stage
Point of sale is emerging as a core tobacco control activity. For US states and localities that already have a strong clean indoor air law, high tobacco taxes, and secure program funding, point of sale work is the next frontier to reduce tobacco use initiation and make it easier to quit. Science and the Surgeon General continue to make a clear case: exposure to tobacco industry marketing and price promotions in the retail environment is harmful to health.
2012 was a big year for addressing POS issues as several European countries including Wales, England, and Scotland committed to implementing tobacco display bans. In the US, a series of cases brought against the provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act traveled through the courts. The tobacco industry argued that the provisions, including requirement of large graphic warning labels on tobacco packaging, violated first amendment rights. Although still in litigation, US courts upheld a majority of the act’s provisions. Furthermore, greater attention is now being focused on point of sale issues as evidenced by the 2012 Surgeon General Report’s section titled “Tobacco Product Marketing at the Point of Sale” which showcases ways in which the tobacco industry uses the retail environment to expose youth to tobacco advertising.
Look out for more POS developments in 2013.
2. Standardized Store Audit Form on the Horizon
From Operation Storefront to Store Alert, tobacco control advocates have been using observational assessment forms to collect data on the retail store landscape for more than two decades. By systematically collecting information such as product availability, the number and placement of tobacco signs, or the presence of powerwall displays, advocates have evidence of what is happening in their own neighborhoods and can educate the general public and policy makers.
Today, the use of store assessments is on the rise. This trend was spurred after the 2009 Tobacco Control Act lifted preemption. Now state and local governments are newly empowered to pass policies to impact the retail environment.
Coming summer 2014 from the State and Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Initiative: a standard store assessment form for anyone to use. Store assessments are a great way to get started in point of sale work. The new form will be updated for today’s product mix and will let advocates across the US and world collaborate, pool data, and compare results. Stay tuned to Counter Tobacco for more information.
3. Rise of a New Giant? Non-Cigarette Tobacco Products
Although the number of cigarettes consumed over the last few decades in the United States has declinedas a result of tobacco control efforts, an increase in the consumption of non-cigarette tobacco products (also known as ‘other tobacco products’ or OTP) is trending. The non-cigarette tobacco products category includes chewing tobacco, moist snuff, e-cigarettes, cigars, and little cigars also known as cigarillos. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that from 2000 to 2011 cigarette consumption decreased by 32.8% however consumption of loose tobacco products and cigars increased by 123.1% during the same period.
Attention to the non-cigarette tobacco product category will be particularly important as this category can serve as an additional entry point for youth to initiate smoking due to attractive characteristics like novelty, candy-like flavors and low prices. In addition, this product category offers current smokers an additional usage occasion which raises concerns around dual use.
4. Tragic New Partnership? Dollar Stores & Tobacco
In 2012 two large dollar stores, Dollar General and Family Dollar, announced that they would include cigarettes and other tobacco products as part of their stores’ offerings. Dollar General boasts 10,000 locations across the US while Family Dollar has over 7,000 locations. Despite the recession, both of these stores are growing rapidly, with Family Dollar opening 500 stores in 2012 equating to nearly 2 new stores per day. The expansion of these stores across the US coupled with their agreement to now sell tobacco products offers more opportunities for the tobacco industry to cater its products to consumers of a lower income bracket.
As market research typically drives the decision for retailers to add and remove offerings from their shelves, it will be important to see if other major convenient stores in the discount space such as Dollar Tree and 99-Cent Only follow suit.
5. Localities Taking a Stand
In 2012, Providence, Rhode Island passed an ordinance that prohibited the sale of most flavored non-cigarette tobacco products and the redemption of coupons and multipack discounts. The city was met with rapid and fierce opposition after several tobacco companies, associations, manufacturers and distributors joined forces to file suit against the new policy citing violation of first amendment rights. In December of 2012, the US District Court for Rhode Island upheld the ordinance dismissing the claims of first amendment violations and federal preemption. Providence has joined the ranks of other localities like New York that have passed local policy restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. View Providence’s ordinance banning flavored non-cigarette tobacco products and coupon discounts here.
The Tobacco Legal Consortium not only provides resources for sample language to develop policy that regulates the sale of flavored non-cigarette tobacco products but also provides updates regarding tobacco cases that are pending litigation.
In 2013, watch for more local governments regulating the sale of flavored tobacco products in their communities. Banning flavored OTP may presage action by the Food and Drug Administration to do this at the national level as well. Finally, given that the tobacco industry spends most of it marketing and promotional budget on price discounting this landmark policy by Rhode Island and early court victory will be one of the most important stories to follow in 2013.