Background: Previous research has shown that visiting grocery stores that sell tobacco is positively associated with smoking initiation among youth.
Method: Stores were identified through multiple government lists and community canvasing for the years 2003, 2009, 2012, and 2015
Results: Tobacco sales peaked in 2009 at 83.8% and declined to 74.5%. The largest decline was in convenience stores that went out of business, followed by pharmacies that dropped tobacco sales (3 of the 4 were CVS, and the local tobacco-free coalition convinced the 4th independent pharmacy to end sales). The increase in availability was due to new convenience stores and an increase in dollar stores sales. However, the number of stores selling tobacco increased at a greater pace in minority neighborhoods. E-cigarettes were sold in 47.4% of all stores, or 63.7% of stores selling tobacco in 2015. All dollar stores and most convenience stores that sold e-cigarettes had indoor advertising of the products but supermarkets and pharmacies did not. Indoor advertising also peaked in 2009 at 76.1% and declined to 65.0% in 2015, including declines in low (<3 feet) tobacco advertising. No supermarkets had advertising due to a local tobacco-free coalition successfully negotiating with all major regional supermarkets to remove all tobacco displays in 2007 and 2008.
Limitations: Other types of tobacco or e-cigarette retailers were not evaluated. Intervals between data collection were not sensitive enough to identify a specific point when a change occurs. The evaluation of availability and advertising of cessation products were not analyzed.
Conclusion: The declines in tobacco availability and advertising in Albany were explained by local tobacco control efforts, the pharmacy industry’s self-regulation of tobacco sales, and an increase in tobacco retailer registration fees.
Significance: Voluntary withdrawal of tobacco from convenience stores is rare. Store owners are often not willing to give up selling tobacco products, even when incentives are provided. The increase in tobacco registration fee in 2011 was most likely responsible for drop of sales in low-volume retailers. Social pressure on chains and independent pharmacies was due to targeted campaigns by local tobacco-free coalition. As noted in this paper, pharmacies have a 56% larger space for tobacco displays. That makes them a prime target for POS advertising restrictions. Finally, limiting the number of registrations or licenses in an area of high business turnover can be helpful in reducing the number of tobacco retailers.
Citation: Hosler, A. S., Done, D. H., Michaels, I. H., Guarasi, D. C., & Kammer, J. R. (2016). Longitudinal Trends in Tobacco Availability, Tobacco Advertising, and Ownership Changes of Food Stores, Albany, New York, 2003–2015. Preventing Chronic Disease, 13. http://doi.org/10.5888/pcd13.160002