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Characteristics of tobacco purchases in urban corner stores

Abstract

Introduction To examine the prevalence and patterns of tobacco purchases at low-income, urban corner stores.

Methods Data on tobacco products and other purchases were collected through direct observation of customers’ purchases (n=6369) at 120 urban corner stores in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from April to September 2012.

Results Overall 13% of corner store purchases included tobacco products. The majority (61%) of tobacco purchases did not include any other products, and 5.1% of all purchases from corner stores included a food or beverage and tobacco product. Approximately 24% of tobacco purchases were for lower-cost tobacco products such as cigars and cigarillos, and nearly 5% of tobacco purchases were an illegal purchase of a single, unpackaged tobacco product that is not intended for individual sale (ie, loosies). There was no difference in the average amount spent on food or beverages when purchased with (US$2.55, 95% CI: 2.21 to 2.88) or without (US$2.55, 95% CI: 2.48 to 2.63) tobacco products.

Conclusions In low-income, urban corner store settings, 87% of purchases did not include tobacco; most tobacco purchases did not include the sale of non-tobacco items and spending on non-tobacco items was similar whether or not tobacco was purchased. These findings can help inform retail-level tobacco sales decisions, such as voluntary discontinuation of tobacco products or future public health policies that target tobacco sales. The results challenge prevailing assumptions that tobacco sales are associated with sales of other products in corner stores, such as food and beverages.

  • environment
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • public policy

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