Retail Policy and Licensure

The tobacco industry spends over $9 billion annually advertising and promoting its products. Of this amount, more than 90 percent is spent in the retail environment (e.g., convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies), typically at the point of sale (POS). The point of sale refers to any location where commercial tobacco products are advertised, displayed or purchased, and includes areas at the cash register, as well as advertisements inside and outside retail establishments.

Tobacco companies attract and maintain consumers and potential consumers by advertising, price promotions and discounts, product placement and displays, and other marketing tactics in the retail setting. Not only are most tobacco products bought in stores, but the widespread presence of tobacco outlets, products, and advertising encourages initiation, increases impulse purchases, normalizes the presence of tobacco products in everyday life, and discourages tobacco cessation.

Reducing access to tobacco products and limiting tobacco industry presence in the retail environment is a core tobacco control strategy. One of the most effective ways to implement this strategy in the retail setting is through robust tobacco retailer licensing laws. All states and many local governments have the power to require retailers to obtain a license before selling tobacco products and to revoke or suspend a license if the retailer violates the law. Tobacco licensing laws can be an effective tobacco control tool in reducing or restricting the number, location, density, and types of tobacco retail outlets; limiting point-of-sale advertising and product placement; and requiring retailers to comply with other tobacco control measures.

This section contains information about tobacco control policy options, such as licensure, that can help limit the tobacco industry’s presence and impact in the retail environment.


Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).


Point of sale

Location, Location, Location: Tobacco & E-cig Point of Sale (2019)

Retailers are the primary marketing venue for tobacco products, driving sales and use. As a result, tobacco control policy has increasingly focused on retailers by, for example, limiting their number and restricting their location, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Surgeon General. This publication outlines policy and legal considerations for regulating both tobacco and electronic cigarette retailer locations to improve public health.

Tobacco Town Minnesota Dashboard

Tobacco Town Minnesota (2018)

This page features resource materials related to Tobacco Town Minnesota, a computational modeling project that explored the impact of menthol restrictions and retailer density reductions in six different Minnesota communities.