An analysis of small retailers’ relationships with tobacco companies in 4 us cities

Heather D’angelo, Guadalupe X. Ayala, Joel Gittelsohn, Melissa N. Laska, Lesley Schmidt Sindberg, Lucy Horton, Anna Y. Kharmats, Kurt M. Ribisl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: In this study, we examined small food store retailers’ perspectives on tobacco company agreements specifying tobacco product display and promotion. Methods: We interviewed owners/managers of small food stores (N = 63) in lower-income neighborhoods in 4 US cities using open-and closed-ended questions between October 2013 and July 2014. We coded qualitative interview data and calculated descriptive statistics. Results: Most retailers had a formal contract with a tobacco company (87%). Retailers perceived that tobacco products generated low profits, but were important to attract customers. Nearly 95% with contracts reported receiving an incentive, including marketing materials (86.8%), displays (79%), and free/discounted products (50.9%). Contract requirements included placing branded displays and marketing materials in prime locations and setting cigarette prices. Retailers in urban, African-American neighborhoods felt pressure to maintain menthol cigarette contracts to stay in business. Conclusion: Contracts with tobacco companies were common among the small food stores in this study, and retailers felt they needed the contracts to keep prices competitive. Given the reliance of retailers on tobacco industry contracts, states and localities may need to adopt measures to counter their effects, especially the financial incentives that lead to lower cigarette prices and more prominent displays of promotions and marketing materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
JournalTobacco Regulatory Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research program and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award number P01 CA225597. The funders had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis, writing, or interpretation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Tobacco Regulatory Science Group. All rights reserved.


  • Incentive programs
  • Point-of-sale
  • Tobacco industry contracts
  • Tobacco marketing and promotions


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