Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When tobacco is readily available, it is easier for young people to try smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Making tobacco products harder to get helps prevent youth from embarking on a lifelong addiction and helps smokers to break the habit.


A critical access issue is the illegal sale of tobacco to minors. Although there has been a steady decline in tobacco sales to minors in California since it was first monitored in 1995, there are still several store types with high rates of illegal sales. Historically, non-traditional retailers such as discount/gift stores, donut shops and gas stations have the highest rate of illegal sales to teens.

Get involved in your community to reduce illegal tobacco sales to minors.


Sales of tobacco products in pharmacies have gained negative attention in recent years. The public expects pharmacies to help people maintain and improve their health, not to sell a product that sickens and kills millions.

The City of San Francisco felt so strongly about this that lawmakers passed a law in 2008 banning the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, making it the first city in the nation to do so. Since then, more cities have considered imposing similar restrictions.

Retail Environments

When you go to your local convenience store, do you notice how many tobacco ads there are posted? Tobacco ads saturate the retail environment. In fact, a recent study revealed California retail stores had an average of 25 tobacco ads.1

The impact of retail tobacco advertising and promotions is tremendous. In 2008, 90 percent of industry spending in this category was directed towards price promotion and discounting in retail stores.2 Seventy-five percent of teens visit a convenience store at least once a week and point-of-purchase advertising and displays have been found to increase average tobacco sales by 12 percent.3

Industry price promotions have been found to lower the price of tobacco to the consumer – this is especially alluring to price-sensitive groups such as youth.4 High levels of retail tobacco advertising and price promotions combined with lower cigarette prices increase smoking rates.5 6

A 2006 study showed that almost all Californians (96.8 percent) would shop at their most frequented pharmacy just as often or more often if they stopped selling tobacco products.2

  • References

    1. Feighery, EC, et al. "An examination of trends in amount and type of cigarette advertising and sales promotions in California stores, 2002-2005," Tobacco Control February 26, 2008.
    2. Cigarette Report for 2006. U.S. Federal Trade Commission (2009)
    3. Feighery, E, et al., "Cigarette advertising and promotional strategies in retail outlets: results of a statewide survey in California," Tobacco Control 10L:184-188, 2001.
    4. Pierce, J., et al. "Tobacco Industry Price-subsidizing Promotions May Overcome the Downward Pressure of Higher Prices on Initiation of Regular Smoking." Health Economics, 14, 1061-1071, 2005.
    5. Hanewinkel, et. Al. "Cigarette Advertising and Adolescent Smoking." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 38(4), 359-366, 2010
    6. Slater et al, "The Impact of Retail Cigarette Marketing Practices on Youth Smoking Uptake." Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161, 440-445, 2007.

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