Introduction: Tobacco manufacturers continue to implement a range of pricing strategies to increase the affordability and consumption of tobacco products. To demonstrate the extent of retail- and brand-level price discounts at the point of sale, this study assessed national sales trends in price-discounted cigarettes, large cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos.
Methods: Retail scanner data for tobacco product sales were obtained for convenience stores (C-store) and all-other-outlets-combined (AOC) from September 25, 2011, to January 9, 2016. The proportion of price-discounted sales, average nondiscounted unit price, and average discounted unit price were examined by product category and brand. JoinPoint regression was used to assess average monthly percentage change.
Results: Overall, price-discounted sales accounted for 11.3% of cigarette, 3.4% of large cigar, 4.1% of little cigar, and 3.9% of cigarillo sales. The average difference between nondiscounted and discounted prices was 25.5% (C-store) and 36.7% (AOC) for cigarettes; 11.0% (C-store) and 11.2% (AOC) for large cigars; 19.2% (C-store) and 9.6% (AOC) for little cigars; and 5.3% (C-store) and 14.7% (AOC) for cigarillos. Furthermore, price-discounted sales of top-selling tobacco brands comprised up to 36% of cigarette, 7.4% of large cigar, 7.7% of little cigar, and 4.2% of cigarillo unit sales.
Conclusions: These findings highlight the use of price discounts by tobacco manufacturers to reduce the cost of cigarettes, large cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos to consumers. These sales patterns underscore the importance of sustained efforts to implement evidence-based strategies to increase prices and reduce availability and consumption of combustible tobacco in the United States.
Implications: This study highlights the prevalence and provides a baseline of price-discounted cigarettes, large cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos. Surveillance of tobacco sales data, including state-level trends and additional product types, is critical for informing approaches to reduce tobacco consumption. These approaches include countering tobacco product price-discounting practices and raising and maintaining a high sales price for all tobacco products. The implementation of evidence-based population-level interventions, together with local, state, and federal regulation of tobacco products, could prevent tobacco initiation, increase tobacco cessation, and reduce overall tobacco use among US youth and adults.