Cities and communities all across the county are working on and passing innovative policies and programs that counter tobacco marketing and sales in the retail setting. They provide great examples of how to develop, pass, and implement effective policies, run successful media and awareness campaigns, and fight the “War in the Store.” Below, we provide a “Story from the Field” for each of our recommended Policy Solutions.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago POS Legislation includes a ban on selling flavored tobacco, including menthol, within 500 feet of a school.

Edgewater, Colorado

picture1In November 2016, the city of Edgewater, Colorado voted unanimously to pass a tobacco retailer licensing law. It is the 7th community to pass a licensing ordinance in the state but first the first to include licensing for cigarette sales. The licensing ordinance prohibits self-service displays for all tobacco products and tobacco product paraphernalia, including electronic smoking devices (ESDs), prohibits individuals under 18 from entering a tobacco retail business without a parent or guardian, establishes a penalty system for violations, and more  talked with Tracy Doyle, Policy Specialist with the Tobacco Prevention Initiative at Jefferson County Public Health, who worked on the ordinance, to learn why Edgewater was the first in the state to include licensing for cigarette sales, what the goal of the ordinance was, who was involved in its passage, how they made the case for the policy, and what’s next. Read more.

Licensing for E-Cigarette Retailers and Vape Shops

In April 2016, the Washington state legislature adopted rules to create a statewide licensing system for businesses that sell and distribute “vapor products,” including liquid nicotine.  The state estimates that approximately 6,000 retailers will be affected by the new licensing rules, along with roughly 150 “vapor products” distributors. The rules, which are expected to take effect in fall 2016, require retailers to obtain a separate license to sell “vapor products” online. In addition, many local communities have adopted their own licensing and permit requirements for e-cigarette retailers and vape shops. For example, San Marcos, California, recently passed an ordinance requiring any shop that sells tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and related devices, to purchase a city-issued “tobacco retail license.”  The city partnered with the San Marcos Prevention Coalition and the Vista Community Clinic, which conducted surveys of local e-cigarette retailers and vape shops and determined that a number of businesses were selling these products to minors in violation of state law.  San Marcos plans to use the tobacco license fees (roughly $190 per establishment) to ensure that businesses are complying with tobacco control regulations, including restrictions on selling to underage users.  (California recently raised the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21.)  Ensuring regulatory compliance at the point of sale is just one of many ways in which licensing e-cigarette retailers and vape shops can be an effective tobacco control tool for both state and local governments. Read more. 

San Francisco, California

A retailer licensing policy can help a community monitor and manage the number of tobacco retailers and is a typical policy lever pulled by towns or cities to manage the number of alcohol retailers. San Francisco’s Tobacco Use Reduction Act aims to halve the number of tobacco retailers in the city over the next 10-15 years by creating a cap of 45 tobacco sales permits in each of the 11 city districts. This cap aims to reduce disparities in retailer density in lower income and minority communities. For more details on the city’s strategy and lessons learned, review Reducing Tobacco Retail Density in San Francisco: A Case Study. Watch this video from the youth of San Francisco’s Tobacco Use Reduction Force (TURF) to learn more about the law and why it is so important.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In December of 2016, the Philadelphia Board of Health passed new tobacco retailer regulations that will ultimately lead to a reduction in the total number of tobacco retailers in the city, a reduction in the number of retailers near schools, as well as a reduction in disparities in retailer density seen across different neighborhoods. The new regulations set a cap on the total number of tobacco retailer permits, limiting them to 1 per 1,000 people in each planning district. In addition, the regulations restrict any new retailer from locating within 500 feet (or approximately two blocks) of K-12 schools. Learn more here about why the city chose these policies in particular, how they raised awareness of the problem, gained support for and passed the policies, and what they’re planning next. 


CVS Health

In 2008, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies.  In February 2014, CVS announced its decision to stop selling tobacco products, becoming the first retail pharmacy chain in the U.S. to take such action


In Massachusetts, over 80 cities and towns have enacted similar bans as of February 2014. Learn more about Massachusetts’ success in ‘Regulating Pharmacy Tobacco Sales: Massachusetts,‘ the second case study in the Innovative Point-of-Sale Policies series from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Also, check out our Tobacco Free Pharmacies Action Guide for recommendations and tools.

New York State

Tobacco Free New York State (TobaccoFreeNYS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to making New York State a healthier place to live, work, and play. Their media campaign, “Tobacco Marketing Works,” aims to “educate New Yorkers about the dangers of tobacco industry marketing in retail stores, and the effect that this marketing has on New York’s youth. Mass media campaigns have the potential to influence attitudes about POS advertising and increase support for policies that restrict tobacco promotion at the point of sale.[17] In addition to a campaign targeting the public, TobaccoFreeNYS and community partners are asking local retailers to “remove, reduce or rearrange” tobacco advertising in and around their stores. Visit for links to audio, video and print ads, as well as a host of community resources to counter industry marketing at the point of sale. Also see TobaccoFreeNYS on YouTube:


Haverstraw, New York

In 2012, the Village of Haverstraw, NY enacted a ban on the display tobacco products, specifically at stores that are open to minors. This law would have marked the most progressive local policy on tobacco display bans to date in the United States. Unfortunately, the New York Association of Convenience Stores and 7 major tobacco companies filed a lawsuit contesting that this policy violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. In response, Haverstraw withdrew its ban to avoid a court battle that would be costly for a small town to fight. Read more.

New York City

  • Sensible Tobacco Enforcement: set a ban on price promotions, a floor price of cigarettes and little cigars, a minimum pack size for little cigars and cigarillos, and more.
  • Tobacco Product Display Restriction: would have banned the display of any tobacco products or tobacco product packaging and set an age restriction of 18 for entering retail tobacco stores, but this bill was dropped and never voted on.


Minneapolis Flavor Restrictions: Minneapolis, MN enacted restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products, other than menthol flavored, limiting them to adult-only tobacco stores. These restrictions apply to products such as cotton candy-flavored shisha, apple-flavored chewing tobacco, grape-flavored little cigars, and e-liquids that are sold in thousands of kid-friendly fruit and candy flavors.  At the same time, the city of Minneapolis also set a minimum sales price for cigars of $2.60 each or $10.40 for packs of four or more. Read more.

San Francisco

In June 2017, San Francisco became the first city to completely restrict the sale of any flavored tobacco product, including menthol, within the city limits, without exception. Learn about the groundwork involved in making it happen and the ongoing work to keep the policy on the books. 

Local Menthol Policy Case Studies: Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Oakland

This webinar offers case studies for successfully passed local policies restricting the sale of menthol tobacco products. Come find out Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Oakland were able to pass their policies, who helped, lessons learned, and more. 

San Francisco


San Francisco adopted a Cigarette Litter Abatement Fee at the rate of 20 cents per pack of cigarettes. According to a 2009 report from the Health Economics Consulting Group, the city of San Francisco spent over 6 million dollars in 2008 removing cigarettes from gutters, drainpipes and sidewalks. San Francisco has also proposed a fast food litter fee. No studies have assessed the effectiveness of this approach on raising prices, but presumably the impact would be akin to an excise tax. For more information, see the San Francisco Ordinance of Cigarette Litter Abatement Fee, Administrative Code, Chapter 105 and this Letter of September 24, 2009 to Cigarette Retailers RE: San Francisco Cigarette Litter Abatement Fee.

New York City

Case Study - Reducing Cheap Tobacco & Youth Access: New York City In 2013, New York City passed a comprehensive point of sale policy, Sensible Tobacco Enforcement, which restricted price discounts by prohibiting retailers from redeeming coupons or honoring other price discounts for tobacco products, set a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars at $10.50 per pack, set minimum packaging requirements, and increased enforcement and penalties for tax evasion. At the same time, the city also passed legislation that raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. Learn more about NYC’s point of sale policy success, the policies’ impacts on public health, legal considerations, and lessons learned in Reducing Cheap Tobacco & Youth Access: New York City, a case study in the Innovative Point-of-Sale Policies series from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis.



Providence, Rhode Island

In 2012 Providence R.I. became the first municipality in the U.S. to prohibit tobacco retailers from selling tobacco products at a discount, through multi-pack or buy-some-get-some-free deals, and redeeming coupons that provide tobacco products for free or at a reduced price. They also banned the sale of flavored non-cigarette tobacco products (except for menthol, mint or wintergreen). These policy successes were the result of a multi-year campaign that included passing a successful licensing policy, conducting store assessments and public opinion surveys, the development and promotion of the Sweet Deceit media campaign, and building community and political support around the issue. After being challenged in court by the tobacco industry, the provisions were upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeals and went into effect in 2013.

Learn more about Providence’s tobacco pricing policy success in Regulating Price Discounting in Providence, R.I., a case study in the Innovative Point-of-Sale Policies series from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

New York City, New York

NYC graphic warningThe New York City Board of Health passed a resolution in September 2009 requiring health warnings and cessation information to be placed near the cash register or near the tobacco product display everywhere tobacco is sold in New York City (read more about the original proposal). Preliminary research with adult current smokers and recent quitters both before and after the signs were posted showed an 11% increase in respondents who were thinking about quitting smoking.
Unfortunately, in June 2010, the regulation was challenged in court by Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and a convenience store trade group in 23-34 94th St. Grocery Corp. v. N.Y. City Board of Health. In December 2010, the court ruled that implementation of the warnings was preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA). This ruling was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in July 2012. Review the following resources for more information about New York City’s resolution, the legal battle, and what it means for other cities looking to implement similar policies:

Jefferson County, Alabama

Jefferson County, Alabama pioneered an innovative program based on voluntary commitments of storeowners to the health of their communities. The United Way of Central Alabama and the Jefferson County Department of Health have worked together to start a program in which retailers post health warning signs in their stores. Signs were created based partially on the new graphic warning labels required by the 2009 FDA Act. Encouragingly, 51 convenience store owners voluntarily agreed to post the warning signs in their place of business, demonstrating strong commitment to the health of their communities. Through these signs and other communication strategies, the number of callers to the quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) exposed to this service by the media has more than doubled. View Jefferson County’s health warnings and read more about the research that informed their process.

New York City

In 2013, New York City became the first major metropolitan area in the US to raise the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Read the full story here.

Kansas City Metro Area

As of February 2017, 22 localities in the Greater Kansas City Area had passed ordinances raising the minimum age for tobacco to 21. We talked with Scott Hall, Senior Vice President of Civic and Community Initiatives at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to learn more about their “Tobacco 21” movement, including who was involved, how they made the case, the process for crafting the ordinances, how Tobacco 21 fits in to broader work preventing youth access to tobacco, lessons learned, and what’s next. Read the full story here.


Assessing Retail Environments with STARS: Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings details experiences from the 2014 pilot of STARS in four states: Indiana, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont. This report from the Center for Public Health Systems Science (CPHSS) provides examples for other state and local tobacco control coalitions considering integrating STARS into their efforts.


Vermont Health Department: conducted store audits of 767 tobacco retailers state-wide. Working with Counter Tools, they used a modified version of the Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings (STARS) and enlisted youth and community coalition groups to help complete the audits. They wanted to understand more about how the tobacco industry markets products in Vermont, get youth and community groups engaged, and establish baseline data for new initiatives by the state’s CounterBalance Campaign.


California Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community: This integrated campaign between tobacco control, nutrition, and alcohol prevention partners conducted 7,393 store assessments in 61 county and municipal local lead agencies throughout the state of California. The store assessments collected data on the availability and marketing of tobacco, food, and alcohol products in stores and seeks to both “improve the health of Californians through changes in community stores and educate people how in-store product marketing influences consumption of unhealthy products.


The Oregon  Health Authority and Smoke Free Oregon put together a great visual and report entitled “What’s for Sale in Your Neighborhood? How Big Tobacco is Targeting Oregon Kids” using data from their statewide store assessments.

multnomah county OR health equityMultnomah County, Oregon


Multnomah County, Oregon: the Multnomah County Health Department and the Oregon Health Equity Alliance conducted assessments of 411 stores that sell tobacco. While Oregon does not require licensing to sell tobacco products, a list of 590 tobacco retailers was created from various sources. Assessments were conducted at 411 of the 590 locations. They documented the number of stores located within 1000ft of schools, offering price discounts, displaying tobacco products within 12 inches of candy, and more. Read the full report here, as well as special reports for the City of Portland, and the Cities of Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale and Wood Village. Data from these assessments were also used to assess the health equity impact of a potential tobacco retailer licensing policy in Multnomah County communities.


Maryland: The Cigar Trap, an education and awareness campaign around the issues associated with the merchandising and promotion of cigars. In Maryland in 2010 14.1% of high school students under 18 reported smoking cigarettes in the last 30 days.  13.9% reported smoking cigars.  This represents more than an 11% increase in cigar use since 2000.  The Cigar Trap highlights this shift in usage and the associated dangers.  The campaign includes facts sheets to define the issue, solutions that can be pursued, and media resources associated with the campaign.  Media resources can also be accessed through the CDC’s Media Campaign Resource Center.


screenshot-2016-10-28-16-50-41The American Lung Association in Minnesota’s “Lethal Lure” Campaign
 developed a tool kit to educate the general public and elected officials about the many tactics the tobacco industry uses to target youth and adults at the point of sale. A recent study showed lower support for point of sale tobacco control policies than for other areas of tobacco control. Building community awareness for POS policies that may be unfamiliar to the general U.S. population and building support for POS policies at the local level are ways to increase overall public support for national policy change. The tool kit includes 1 page issue briefs on a number of point of sale tobacco control topics.  Each includes 1) an overview of the issue, 2) public health concerns nd 3) potential regulatory options at the local level.You can download the complete Lethal Lure Tool Kit in full or each issue 1-pager individually. In addition to a Glossary of Terms, these include:

Audobon, Iowa

 Iowa Students for Tobacco Education and Prevention (ISTEP) is a youth-led tobacco prevention movement with a network of local chapters across the state. A chapter in Audubon, IA, a small, rural community in the Southwestern part of the state, recently used’s Walking Tobacco Audit to uncover the problem of tobacco use and tobacco advertising in their community. During the activity, the students noticed some large outdoor advertising of low priced tobacco products at the Dollar General store, and decided they would all write letters to the Dollar General Corporation and ask them to take the sign down, citing examples of how tobacco advertising is aimed at youth and other populations. The Dollar General Corporation responded by sending a letter back to the group, and took down the sign in Audubon! These large yellow outdoor advertisements were also taken down from Dollar General stores across the state.  Read more here.

Ulster, Dutchess, and Sullivan Counties, New York

The Tobacco Marketing Education and Awareness Video Project, a joint project between Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) of Ulster, Dutchess, and Sullivan Counties in New York State and the Ellenville High School Media Arts program, was inspired by the January 1st enactment, January 1st of Ulster County, NY’s new law requiring a local license to sell tobacco and prohibiting new tobacco retailers from operating within 1000 feet of schools.

Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) of Ulster, Dutchess, and Sullivan Counties collaborated with the Media Arts production class at the high school, to create the educational videos on how tobacco marketing influences youth smoking. The videos are intended to educate the community on how in-store tobacco marketing is a leading cause of youth smoking. They will be aired on the local public access TV station to educate Ulster County residents about tobacco point of sale marketing and will also be used in TFAC’s educational programs. New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control funds TFAC to increase support for New York State’s tobacco-free norm through youth action and community engagement.  Ellenville High School Media Arts students were recognized by the Ulster County Legislature on March 15, 2016 with the “Pride of Ulster” Award for their contributions. Watch their award-winning videos here.