Understanding the tobacco retail environment; next frontier for UK tobacco control
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Action on Smoking and Health (UK), United Kingdom
King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), United Kingdom
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A604
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Background and challenges to implementation:
The UK is now a 'dark market' as such the supply chain and availability of tobacco has become a more important part of the marketing mix for tobacco companies.
A key tactic of tobacco companies has been to seek to persuade small tobacco retailers that their interests align with those of tobacco manufacturers and to encourage them to oppose tobacco regulations and participate in the promotion of products.
This project sought to better understand the extent to which tobacco retailers and tobacco manufacturers share interests and identify where they diverge.

Intervention or response:
A report and infographic was produced using three sources:
  • Analysis of retail trade publications to assess the claims being made by tobacco companies regarding the retail environment.
  • Analysis of point of sale data from independent tobacco retailers testing the claims of tobacco companies regarding the importance of tobacco sales to small retailers.
  • Survey of independent tobacco retailers in Britain. This sought to better understand the existing relationship between retailers and manufacturers, attitudes of retailers towards tobacco control policies and the extent to which they agreed with the positions taken by tobacco manufacturers regarding the retail environment.

Results and lessons learnt:
While tobacco sales accounted for 25% of total income, margins were around 6% compared to an average 24% for the other products. As such average weekly profit was only 1.6% of income. Little evidence to support manufacturers claims that tobacco drives footfall or that retailers should stock full range of brand variants.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
We demonstrated that the existing and future interests of small retailers and manufacturers are not aligned. We identified opportunities to encourage a more responsible approach to tobacco retailing aligning with public health interests.

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