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Retailer experiences with tobacco sales bans: lessons from two early adopter jurisdictions
  1. Patricia A McDaniel,
  2. Elizabeth A Smith,
  3. Ruth E Malone
  1. Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patricia A McDaniel, Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, San Francisco, CA, USA; patricia.mcdaniel{at}


Background Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, California, are the first two US cities to prohibit the sale of tobacco products, passing ordinances that went into effect on 1 January 2021. We sought to learn about retailers’ experiences with these laws 22 months after implementation.

Methods Brief in-person interviews with owners or managers of businesses that formerly sold tobacco (n=22).

Results Participant experiences varied by type of retailer. Managers at large chain stores reported no problems adapting to the law and little effect on overall sales. Many were largely indifferent to the sales bans. By contrast, most managers or owners of small, independent retailers reported losses of both revenue and customers, and expressed dissatisfaction with the laws. Small retailers in Beverly Hills objected particularly to exemptions that city made allowing hotels and cigar lounges to continue their sales, which they saw as undermining the health rationale for the law. The small geographical area covered by the policies was also a source of frustration, and retailers reported that they had lost business to retailers in nearby cities. The most common advice small retailers had for other retailers was to organise to oppose any similar attempts in their cities. A few retailers were pleased with the law or its perceived effects, including a reduction in litter.

Conclusion Planning for tobacco sales ban or retailer reduction policies should include considering impacts on small retailers. Adopting such policies in as wide a geographical area as possible, as well as allowing no exemptions, may help reduce opposition.

  • Public policy
  • Tobacco industry
  • End game

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors PAM, EAS and REM conceptualised and designed the study, identified potential retailers, designed the interview guide and analysed the data. PAM and EAS collected the data, wrote the first draft of the paper and edited all subsequent drafts. REM edited all drafts of the paper. PAM is the guarantor of the overall content of the paper.

  • Funding This project was funded by the California Department of Public Health (contract number CG 1910107). The funders played no role in data collection, interpretation or reporting.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.