INTRODUCTION: On 3 January, 2013, the city of Providence, Rhode Island, began enforcing a restriction on the retail sale of all non-cigarette tobacco products with a characterising flavour other than tobacco, menthol, mint or wintergreen. We assessed the policy impact on cigar sales-which comprise 95% of flavoured non-cigarette tobacco products sold through conventional tobacco retail outlets (eg, convenience stores, supermarkets) in Providence-over time and in comparison to the rest of the state (ROS).
METHODS: Weekly retail scanner sales data were obtained for January 2012 to December 2016. Cigar sales were categorised into products labelled with explicit-flavour (eg, Cherry) or concept-flavour (eg, Jazz) names. Regression models assessed changes in prepolicy and postpolicy sales in Providence and ROS.
RESULTS: Average weekly unit sales of flavoured cigars decreased prepolicy to postpolicy by 51% in Providence, while sales increased by 10% in ROS (both p<0.01). The Providence results are due to a 93% reduction in sales of cigars labelled with explicit-flavour names (p<0.01), which did not change significantly in ROS. Sales of cigars labelled with concept-flavour names increased by 74% in Providence and 119% in ROS (both p<0.01). Sales of all cigars-flavoured and otherwise-decreased by 31% in Providence (p<0.01). We detected some evidence of product substitution and cross-border purchasing.
CONCLUSIONS: The Providence policy had a city-specific impact on retail sales of flavoured cigars, which was attenuated by an increase in sales of concept flavour-named cigars. Products with concept-flavour names may avoid enforcement agency detection, and their continued sale undermines the intent of the policy.