Prev Med Rep. 2020 Sep 18;20:101200. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101200. eCollection 2020 Dec.
This study measures the availability of menthol cigarettes in Oakland, California where such products were banned from the majority of tobacco retailers, except for those who sold a significant amount of tobacco (e.g., 60% gross income). Out of a total of 385 retailers in Oakland, only forty-eight retailers were exempt from this ban at the time of data collection. In February 2019, seven months after the ban went into effect, we selected a stratified random sample of 15 census tracts, based on race/ethnicity. In pairs, data collectors walked on opposite sides of the street and collected all discarded cigarette packs (n = 641) from the streets and sidewalks on weekdays. Overall, we found almost half (46.0%; 95% CI = 32.6%-59.3%) of the packs collected were menthol, with Newport as the dominant brand. We found at least one pack of menthol cigarettes in 14 of the 15 sampled census tracts. In predominantly black/African American census tracts, the proportion of menthol cigarettes collected was significantly higher (70.1%; 95% CI = 62.6%-77.7%) when compared to mixed race/ethnicity (55.9%; 95% CI = 41.0-70.9%) and white tracts (35.1%; 95% CI = 13.2%-57.1%). Finally, there was a moderate and negative correlation between distance to exempt tobacco retailer and menthol availability (r = -0.66, p < .05). The proportion of menthol cigarette packs decreased the further away census tracts were from exempt tobacco retailers. Results from this study lend support that partial bans provide disproportionate availability of menthol cigarettes in black/African American census tracts. Complete bans may help eliminate disparities associated with menthol cigarette use across communities.