Prices for Tobacco and Nontobacco Products in Pharmacies Versus Other Stores: Results From Retail Marketing Surveillance in California and in the United States

Objectives: To examine disparities in the price of tobacco and nontobacco products in pharmacies compared with other types of stores.

Methods: We recorded the prices of Marlboro, Newport, the cheapest cigarettes, and bottled water in a random sample of licensed tobacco retailers (n = 579) in California in 2014. We collected comparable data from retailers (n = 2603) in school enrollment zones for representative samples of US 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in 2012. Ordinary least squares regressions modeled pretax prices as a function of store type and neighborhood demographics.

Results: In both studies, the cheapest cigarettes cost significantly less in pharmacies than other stores; the average estimated difference was $0.47 to $1.19 less in California. We observed similar patterns for premium-brand cigarettes. Conversely, bottled water cost significantly more in pharmacies than elsewhere. Newport cost less in areas with higher proportions of African Americans; other cigarette prices were related to neighborhood income and age. Neighborhood demographics were not related to water prices.

Conclusions: Compared with other stores, pharmacies charged customers less for cigarettes and more for bottled water. State and local policies to promote tobacco-free pharmacies would eliminate an important source of discounted cigarettes.

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August 2016