Tobacco companies spend the overwhelming majority of their annual marketing budget at the point of sale (POS), an area in which they have enjoyed the greatest freedom from regulation. The POS refers to any location where tobacco products are advertised, displayed, and purchased. The POS encompasses not only the final point of purchase (i.e., the register) but also indoor and outdoor advertising at retail locations, product placement, and price.Tobacco companies use the retail environment to attract and maintain customers by promoting their brands, increasing the likelihood of impulse product purchases, and establishing the presence of tobacco products in everyday life as commonplace. Exposure to tobacco products and price promotions at the point of sale encourages initiation and discourages cessation. Solving the POS problem is recognized as a fifth core strategy of tobacco control programming, along with: (1) raising cigarette excise taxes, (2) establishing smokefree policies, (3) encouraging cessation, and (4) launching hard-hitting counter-marketing campaigns. Since the 2009 passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), many states and communities are considering new policies in the retail environment. State and local agencies are also increasingly focused on eliminating tobacco-related disparities by addressing higher tobacco-retailer density and the greater amount of marketing and price discounting found in low-income and minority communities. This report is the first in a series of case studies to highlight communities that are implementing innovative POS policies. The case studies are intended to provide tobacco control advocates with practical, real world examples that may be used to inform future policy efforts. To learn about the processes, facilitators, and challenges of implementing and enforcing POS policies, we conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. We also reviewed relevant literature, legal documents, and news articles. This case study focuses on price discounting and, specifically, Providence, Rhode Island’s efforts to pass the first ban on coupon redemption and multi-pack discounts in the US. The following pages provide a short background on price discounting, its use by the tobacco industry to influence purchases, and the impact pricing strategies have on vulnerable populations. States and communities considering similar policies can learn from Providence’s experience and take away practical next steps for restricting tobacco company price discounting in the future.
Center for Public Health Systems Science, "Regulating Price Discounting in Providence, RI" (2013). Center for Public Health Systems Science. 67.