Tobacco retailer location restrictions

States or municipalities can limit where tobacco products are sold, proximity of tobacco retailers to each other, and to homes and schools via zoning regulations, retailer licensing laws, and other regulations (e.g., bans on sales). Licensing laws restrict which businesses can sell tobacco products; zoning regulations prohibit sale of tobacco products in designated zones (e.g., near youth oriented facilities such as schools, parks, or playgrounds) (PHLC-Licensing and zoning). Municipalities may also ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and educational institutions (Ackerman 2017). Laws can be enacted individually or as part of broader land use and development plans (TCN 2012). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced youth smoking

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced tobacco use

Evidence of Effectiveness

Limiting tobacco retail outlets around homes and schools is a suggested strategy to reduce smoking, especially among youth (AHA-Mozaffarian 2012, PHLC-Licensing and zoning, Ackerman 2017, , ). Higher tobacco retail outlet density is associated with greater levels of youth experimentation with tobacco (, Adams 2013), youth smoking (AHA-Mozaffarian 2012, , , , Adams 2013), and adult smoking (, AHA-Mozaffarian 2012), even when controlling for neighborhood factors such as land use, racial composition, and poverty (Novak 2006). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Ackerman 2017).

Studies of regulations in Massachusetts and California suggest banning tobacco sales in pharmacies can decrease tobacco retailer density (, Ackerman 2017). Licensing restrictions (Ackerman 2017, ) and other regulations (Ackerman 2017) that set minimum allowable distances between retailers and schools or ban sales near schools may also reduce tobacco retailer density (). Zoning restrictions appear to prevent new retailers from locating in designated areas but are not likely to alter existing tobacco retailer density (Ackerman 2017).

Tobacco retail outlet density is often highest in low income neighborhoods (, , , ), neighborhoods with primarily minority residents (, ), particularly black (, ) or Hispanic residents (, ), and high poverty, urban areas ().

Adults who are attempting to quit smoking and live near tobacco retail outlets appear less likely to quit smoking than adults who live farther from such outlets (Reitzel 2011).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of 2018, there are 186 municipalities, primarily in Massachusetts and California, with tobacco-free pharmacy laws in place (ANRF-Tobacco-free pharmacies). CVS Health voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products in all municipalities in 2014 (, CVS-Tobacco-free). Effective January 1, 2019, New York City will prohibit tobacco sales in pharmacies (Truth Initiative-Retailers).

San Francisco and Philadelphia are two examples of cities with tobacco retailer density caps. San Francisco set a cap of 45 tobacco retailer licenses per district in 2015 (SF Tobacco-free) and Philadelphia set a density cap and banned tobacco retailers from locating within 500 feet of local schools, effective in early 2017 (PDPH-Tobacco retailing). As of 2014, most US states have taken some form of action to reduce tobacco retailer density (Luke 2016).

Implementation Resources

CTFK-TFR - Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Tobacco Free Retailers (TFR). You can shop tobacco-free: find stores that don't sell tobacco products.

PHLC-Tobacco zoning - Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC). Land use/zoning. Saint Paul: Public Health Law Center (PHLC).

CPHSS TCLC-Brossart 2014 - Brossart L, Moreland-Russell S, Walsh H, et al. Policy strategies: A tobacco control guide. St. Louis: Center for Public Health Systems Science (CPHSS), George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC); 2014.

ANRF-Tobacco-free pharmacies - American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF). Colleges, hospitals, housing, & more: Municipalities with tobacco-free pharmacy laws. 2018.

CounterTobacco-Licensing and zoning - CounterTobacco.org. Licensing and zoning. University of North Carolina.

PHTPC-TRL - Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center (PHTPC). Tobacco retail licensing (TRL): Promoting health through local sales regulations. Boston: Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law; 2018.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Peterson 2011* - Peterson NA, Yu D, Morton CM, et al. Tobacco outlet density and demographics at the tract level of analysis in New Jersey: A statewide analysis. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy. 2011;18(1):47–52.

Siahpush 2010* - Siahpush M, Jones PR, Singh GK, Timsina LR, Martin J. Association of availability of tobacco products with socio-economic and racial/ethnic characteristics of neighbourhoods. Public Health. 2010;124(9):525–9.

AHA-Mozaffarian 2012 - Mozaffarian D, Afshin A, Benowitz NL, et al. Population approaches to improve diet, physical activity, and smoking habits: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). Circulation. 2012;126(12):1514–63.

Novak 2006 - Novak SP, Reardon SF, Raudenbush SW, Buka SL. Retail tobacco outlet density and youth cigarette smoking: A propensity-modeling approach. American Journal of Public Health. 2006;96(4):670–6.

Reitzel 2011 - Reitzel LR, Cromley EK, Li Y, et al. The effect of tobacco outlet density and proximity on smoking cessation. American Journal of Public Health. 2011;101(2):315–20.

Lipperman-Kreda 2014* - Lipperman-Kreda S, Mair C, Grube JW et al. Density and proximity of tobacco outlets to homes and schools: Relations with youth cigarette smoking. Prevention Science. 2014;15(5):738-744.

Adams 2013 - Adams G, Matthews H. Confronting the child care eligibility maze: Simplifying and aligning with other work supports. Work Support Strategies. 2013.

Ribisl 2016* - Ribisl KM, Luke DA, Bohannon DL, Sorg AA, Moreland-Russell S. Reducing disparities in tobacco retailer density by banning tobacco product sales near schools. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2016;19(2):239-244.

PHLC-Licensing and zoning - Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC). Using licensing and zoning to regulate tobacco retailers: Tips and tools. Saint Paul: Public Health Law Center (PHLC). 2016.

Ackerman 2017 - Ackerman A, Etow A, Bartel S, Ribisl KM. Reducing the density and number of tobacco retailers: Policy solutions and legal issues. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2017;19(2):133-140.

Coxe 2014* - Coxe N, Webber W, Burkhart J, et al. Use of tobacco retail permitting to reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco in Santa Clara County, California. Preventive Medicine. 2014;67(Suppl 1):S46-S50.

Frick 2013* - Frick M, Castro MC. Tobacco retail clustering around schools in New York City: Examining “place” and “space.” Health & Place. 2013;19(1):15-24.

Myers 2015* - Myers AE, Hall MG, Isgett LF, Ribisl KM. A comparison of three policy approaches for tobacco retailer reduction. Preventive Medicine. 2015;74:67-73.

Loomis 2013* - Loomis BR, Kim AE, Goetz JL, Juster HR. Density of tobacco retailers and its association with sociodemographic characteristics of communities across New York. Public Health. 2013;127(4):333-338.

Lipperman-Kreda 2016* - Lipperman-Kreda S, Grube JW, Friend KB, Mair C. Tobacco outlet density, retailer cigarette sales without ID checks and enforcement of underage tobacco laws: Associations with youths’ cigarette smoking and beliefs. Addiction. 2016;111(3):525-532.

Cantrell 2016* - Cantrell J, Pearson JL, Anesetti-Rothermel A, Xiao H, Kirchner TR, Vallone D. Tobacco retail outlet density and young adult tobacco initiation. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2016;18(2):130-137.

Adams 2013 - Adams ML, Jason LA, Pokorny S, Hunt Y. Exploration of the link between tobacco retailers in school neighborhoods and student smoking. Journal of School Health. 2013;83(2):112-118.

Jin 2016* - Jin Y, Lu B, Klein EG, Berman M, Foraker RE, Ferketich AK. Tobacco-free pharmacy laws and trends in tobacco retailer density in California and Massachusetts. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(4):679-685.

Fakunle 2016* - Fakunle DO, Milam AJ, Furr-Holden CD, et al. The inequitable distribution of tobacco outlet density: The role of income in two Black Mid-Atlantic geopolitical areas. Public Health. 2016;136:35-40.

D’Angelo 2016* - D’Angelo H, Ammerman A, Gordon-Larsen P, et al. Sociodemographic disparities in proximity of schools to tobacco outlets and fast-food restaurants. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(9):1556-1562.

Schleicher 2016* - Schleicher NC, Johnson TO, Fortmann SP, Henriksen L. Tobacco outlet density near home and school: Associations with smoking and norms among US teens. Preventive Medicine. 2016;91:287-293.

Gwon 2017* - Gwon SH, DeGuzman PB, Kulbok PA, Jeong S. Density and proximity of licensed tobacco retailers and adolescent smoking: A narrative review. The Journal of School Nursing. 2017;33(1):18-29.

Davis 2015a* - Davis B, Grier S. A tale of two urbanicities: Adolescent alcohol and cigarette consumption in high and low-poverty urban neighborhoods. Journal of Business Research. 2015;68(10):2109-2116.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Luke 2016 - Luke DA, Sorg AA, Combs T, et al. Tobacco retail policy landscape: A longitudinal survey of US states. Tobacco Control. 2016;25(Suppl 1):i44-i51.

Jin 2016* - Jin Y, Lu B, Klein EG, Berman M, Foraker RE, Ferketich AK. Tobacco-free pharmacy laws and trends in tobacco retailer density in California and Massachusetts. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(4):679-685.

ANRF-Tobacco-free pharmacies - American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF). Colleges, hospitals, housing, & more: Municipalities with tobacco-free pharmacy laws. 2018.

PDPH-Tobacco retailing - City of Philadelphia, Department of Public Health (PDPH). Commissioner’s Office: Regulation relating to tobacco retailing.

CVS-Tobacco-free - CVS Health. Be the first tobacco-free generation.

SF Tobacco-free - San Francisco Tobacco-Free. Reducing tobacco retail density in San Francisco. 2016.

Truth Initiative-Retailers - Truth Initiative. How some local governments are keeping the number of tobacco retailers in check. 2017.

Date Last Updated

Jan 9, 2019