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Tobacco availability and point of sale marketing in demographically contrasting districts of Massachusetts
  1. M B Laws1,
  2. J Whitman2,
  3. D M Bowser3,
  4. L Krech1,*
  1. 1The Center for Research on Culture and Health, Latin American Health Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Arias Foundation, San Jose, Costa Rica
  3. 3Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 M Barton Laws, PhD, Latin American Health Institute, 95 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116, USA;


Objective: To assess the prevalence and characteristics of tobacco sales and point-of-sale promotions and advertising in predominantly Latino business districts, and in comparison districts; and the economic importance of tobacco sales and marketing to Latino owned small businesses.

Design: Observational surveys of retail establishments and interviews with store managers.

Setting: Demographically contrasting business districts of eastern Massachusetts.

Main outcome measures: Percentage of businesses selling tobacco, numbers and characteristics of exterior and interior tobacco advertisements per store, merchant reports of promotional allowances received from tobacco distributors.

Results: The proportion of businesses selling tobacco, and hence having storefront tobacco advertising, is strongly negatively correlated with per capita income in the census tracts where businesses are located (Spearman's ρ = −0.794, p = 0.006). Mentholated brands are marketed disproportionately in low income, urban communities. Latino merchants are highly dependent on tobacco sales, but would require relatively modest compensation to forego tobacco promotional allowances.

Conclusions: Storefront tobacco advertising is far more prevalent in predominantly minority, low income communities than in non-minority, higher income communities, principally because of the differing mix of kinds of businesses in the two types of communities, and the greater prevalence of tobacco vendors in lower income neighbourhoods. Tobacco companies obtain this advertising at little cost.

  • Hispanic Americans
  • African Americans
  • point of sale marketing
  • Massachusetts

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  • * Now at Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA