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Retailers’ perspectives on selling tobacco in a low-income San Francisco neighbourhood after California’s $2 tobacco tax increase
  1. Gladis Chavez1,
  2. Meredith Minkler1,
  3. Patricia A McDaniel2,
  4. Jessica Estrada3,
  5. Ryan Thayer4,
  6. Jennifer Falbe5
  1. 1 School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
  2. 2 Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3 Community Health Equity & Promotion Branch, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4 Community Organizing Department, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, San Francisco, California, USA
  5. 5 Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Meredith Minkler, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720-7360, USA; mink{at}


Background California’s tobacco tax increased by $2.00 per pack in 2017. Although such increases are among the most effective tobacco control strategies, little is known about their impact from the perspective of corner store owners in low-income neighbourhoods with high concentrations of tobacco outlets.

Methods We interviewed 38 corner store owners and managers in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, the district with the city’s highest tobacco outlet density, 60–90 days following implementation of the tax increase. Questions focused on perceptions of the impact of the higher tobacco tax on their revenues, customers and tobacco company promotions. We used qualitative content analysis to identify, compare and reconcile key themes.

Results Most retailers reported a decline in cigarette sales, with customers buying fewer cigarettes, switching to cheaper brands or other products like marijuana, or trying to quit smoking. Retailers described challenges associated with running a small business and selling tobacco and concerns about selling a product that is ‘bad’ for customers’ health. Contrary to expectation, tobacco companies appeared to be offering few product promotions in this neighbourhood.

Conclusions Small, independent retailers’ concerns, about selling tobacco and about the health and well-being of customers, suggest that such retailers may be important allies in tobacco control efforts,particularly those focused on the point-of-sale.

  • taxation
  • price
  • advertising and promotion
  • public policy

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  • Contributors GC, MM and JF designed the study and collected the data. GC, MM and JF developed the analysis plan and coded all the data. GC and MM wrote the first draft of the paper. PAM and JF contributed to the review of the literature and to revising the drafts of the paper. JE and RT commented on the study design and analysis throughout the different stages of the project.

  • Funding This research was supported by the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) grant #23AT-0008. J. Falbe’s work was supported, in part, by the National Institute Of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (#K01DK113068).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the TRDRP.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval UC Berkeley Committee for Protection of Human Subjects.

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