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Implementation of a comprehensive flavoured tobacco product sales restriction and retail tobacco sales

Abstract

Objective San Francisco’s comprehensive restriction on flavoured tobacco sales applies to all flavours (including menthol), all products and all retailers (without exemptions). This study evaluates associations of policy implementation with changes in tobacco sales in San Francisco and in two California cities without any sales restriction.

Methods Using weekly retail sales data (July 2015 through December 2019), we computed sales volume in equivalent units within product categories and the proportion of flavoured tobacco. An interrupted time series analysis estimated within-city changes associated with the policy’s effective and enforcement dates, separately by product category for San Francisco and comparison cities, San Jose and San Diego.

Results Predicted average weekly flavoured tobacco sales decreased by 96% from before the policy to after enforcement (p<0.05), and to very low levels across all products, including cigars with concept-flavour names (eg, Jazz). Average weekly flavoured tobacco sales did not change in San Jose and decreased by 10% in San Diego (p<0.05). Total tobacco sales decreased by 25% in San Francisco, 8% in San Jose and 17% in San Diego (each, p<0.05).

Conclusions San Francisco’s comprehensive restriction virtually eliminated flavoured tobacco sales and decreased total tobacco sales in mainstream retailers. Unlike other US flavoured tobacco policy evaluations, there was no evidence of substitution to concept–flavour named products. Results may be attributed to San Francisco Department of Health’s self-education and rigorous retailer education, as well as the law’s rebuttable presumption of a product as flavoured based on manufacturer communication.

  • public policy
  • economics
  • surveillance and monitoring

Data availability statement

Retail scanner data are available from third party vendors and are not publicly available.

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