Tobacco retail policy landscape: a longitudinal survey of US states

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Abstract

Background

There are ∼380 000 tobacco retailers in the USA, where the largest tobacco companies spend almost $9 billion a year to promote their products. No systematic survey has been conducted of state-level activities to regulate the retail environment, thus little is known about what policies are being planned, proposed or implemented.

Methods

This longitudinal study is the first US survey of state tobacco control programmes (TCPs) about retail policy activities. Surveyed in 2012 and 2014, programme managers (n=46) reported activities in multiple domains: e-cigarettes, retailer density and licensing, non-tax price increases, product placement, advertising and promotion, health warnings and other approaches. Policy activities were reported in one of five levels: no formal activity, planning or advocating, policy was proposed, policy was enacted or policy was implemented. Overall and domain-specific activity scores were calculated for each state.

Results

The average retail policy activity almost doubled between 2012 and 2014. States with the largest increase in scores included: Minnesota, which established a fee-based tobacco retail licensing system and banned self-service for e-cigarettes and all other tobacco products (OTP); Oregon, Kansas and Maine, all of which banned self-service for OTP; and West Virginia, which banned some types of flavoured OTP.

Conclusions

Retail policy activities in US states increased dramatically in a short time. Given what is known about the impact of the retail environment on tobacco use by youth and adults, state and local TCPs may want diversify policy priorities by implementing retail policies alongside tax and smoke-free air laws.

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