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Characteristics of tobacco purchases in urban corner stores
  1. Hannah G Lawman1,
  2. Jennifer Dolatshahi1,
  3. Giridhar Mallya2,
  4. Stephanie Vander Veur3,
  5. Ryan Coffman1,
  6. Cheryl Bettigole1,
  7. Alexis Wojtanowski3,
  8. Judith Wylie-Rosett4,
  9. Gary D Foster3,5
  1. 1 Division of Chronic Disease Prevention, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
  3. 3 Weight Watchers International, New York, USA
  4. 4 Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA
  5. 5 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hannah G Lawman, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, 1101 Market St, 9th floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA; Hannah.Lawman{at}


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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  • Contributors JD analysed the data and created the first draft of the manuscript in collaboration with HGL. HGL made all revisions and had primary responsibility for the manuscript. GDF and GM conceptualised the study. GDF, GM, SVV and AW designed and carried out the original study. RC and CB provided content expertise and provided substantive edits to drafts of the manuscript. All authors read, made revisions and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cooperative Agreement #3U58DP002626-01S1) and the NIDDK of the National Institutes of Health (5P30DK111022).

  • Disclaimer GDF and SSV are employees and shareholders of Weight Watchers International. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Philadelphia Department of Public Health IRB; Temple University IRB.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.