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Who sells tobacco, who stops? A comparison across different tobacco retailing schemes

Abstract

Background Licensing of tobacco retailers has been proposed as a mechanism to encourage retailers to stop selling tobacco. However, previous studies of tobacco licensing and/or of retailers who have stopped selling have been restricted to one legislative environment. This study examines patterns of tobacco retailing across three legislative environments with three different licensing schemes (an annual fee-based licence, a zero-cost, one-off notification scheme and no notification/licensing scheme).

Method A telephone survey was conducted of 2928 potential tobacco retailers who could personally choose whether or not to sell tobacco (rather than the decision being made at a head office).

Results Unexpectedly, the annual licence fee to sell tobacco was not significantly associated with a lower rate of selling tobacco or a higher rate of stopping. After allowing for other factors, probability of selling, stopping selling and reported importance of tobacco sales varied across outlet types (p<0.001 for all three outcomes), and according to the remoteness of the retailer (p<0.001, p trend=0.041 and p=0.025 respectively).

Conclusion A fee of $A286 was not associated with a lower rate of selling, or a higher rate of stopping. The effect of licensing on retailer numbers will presumably be greater for higher licence fees, but will also depend on the perceived importance of tobacco sales to the retailer. In turn, importance of tobacco sales appears to depend on market factors, including proximity to major urban centres and low-cost competitors. A higher licence fee is likely to have a larger effect on discouraging retailers from selling.

  • public policy
  • end game
  • harm reduction
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