Objective The Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings (STARS) was designed to characterise the availability, placement, promotion and price of tobacco products, with items chosen for relevance to regulating the retail tobacco environment. This study describes the process to develop the STARS instrument and protocol employed by a collaboration of US government agencies, US state tobacco control programmes (TCPs), advocacy organisations, public health attorneys and researchers from the National Cancer Institute's State and Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Research Initiative.
Methods To evaluate dissemination and early implementation experiences, we conducted telephone surveys with state TCP leaders (n=50, response rate=100%), and with individuals recruited via a STARS download registry on the SCTC website. Website registrants were surveyed within 6months of the STARS release (n=105, response rate=66%) and again after approximate to 5months (retention rate=62%).
Results Among the state TCPs, 42 reported conducting any retail marketing surveillance, with actual or planned STARS use in 34 of these states and in 12 of the 17 states where marketing surveillance was not previously reported. Within 6months of the STARS release, 21% of surveyed registrants reported using STARS and 35% were likely/very likely to use it in the next 6months. To investigate implementation fidelity, we compared data collected by self-trained volunteers and by trained professionals, the latter method being more typically in retail marketing surveillance studies. Results suggest high or moderate reliability for most STARS measures.
Conclusion The study concludes with examples of states that used STARS to inform policy change.