Local sales restrictions significantly reduce the availability of menthol tobacco: Findings from four MN Cities
Background In 2017 and 2018, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Falcon Heights, Minnesota were among the first US cities to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco to adult-only stores. The study examined changes in the availability and marketing of these products following policy implementation.
Methods Retail store audits were conducted approximately 2 months pre-policy and post-policy implementation. Tobacco retail stores (n=299) were sampled from tobacco licensing lists in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Falcon Heights, as well as six comparison cities without menthol policies. The presence of menthol tobacco was assessed, along with the number of interior and exterior tobacco ads and promotions at each store.
Results The majority of policy intervention stores (grocery, convenience stores and pharmacies) were compliant (Minneapolis, 84.4%; Duluth, 97.5%; and St. Paul and Falcon Heights, 100.0%) and did not sell menthol tobacco. In contrast, menthol tobacco was available in all comparison city stores, and most (96.0%) exempted tobacco shops and liquor stores post-policy implementation. Two Minneapolis convenience stores added interior tobacco shops, allowing them to continue selling menthol tobacco. Significant decreases in menthol tobacco marketing post-policy were observed in the stores’ interior in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth (p<0.001) and on the stores’ exterior in Duluth (p=0.023).
Conclusions Findings demonstrate high rates of compliance, indicating that sales restrictions can significantly reduce the availability of menthol tobacco. However, challenges to policy adherence underscore the need for continued monitoring and enforcement action.
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