December 3, 2012

Policies Banning Tobacco Product Displays May Deter Youth Tobacco Purchases

Highlights

  • Policies that ban tobacco product displays at the point of sale may help reduce youth smoking by deterring youth from purchasing tobacco products at retail stores
  • Compared to adolescents who shopped in stores with openly visible tobacco products, those who shopped in stores where tobacco products were hidden were less aware the products were for sale
  • Those who shopped in stores where tobacco products were hidden were significantly less likely to try to purchase tobacco products

Media Contacts

  • News@rti.org
  • Lisa Bistreich-Wolfe
    919-316-3596
  • Kami Spangenberg
    919-485-5606

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Policies that ban tobacco product displays at the point of sale may help reduce youth smoking by deterring youth from purchasing tobacco products at retail stores, according to a new study by RTI International and Tarheel Technologies.


Open Tobacco Product Display
(Photo courtesy of Pediatrics)

The study, published in the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics, looked at the behaviors of more than 1,200 smokers and likely smokers aged 13 to 17 in a virtual convenience store in which tobacco products were either openly visible or hidden behind a cabinet. Tobacco ads were also either present or absent in the store.

Compared to adolescents who shopped in stores with openly visible tobacco products, those who shopped in stores where tobacco products were hidden were less aware the products were for sale (32 percent versus 85.2 percent) and significantly less likely to try to purchase tobacco products.

"These results provide support for policies that would ban the display of tobacco products at the point of sale," said Annice Kim, Ph.D., a research public health analyst at RTI and the paper’s lead author. "We found that enclosing tobacco product displays significantly lowers the likelihood that youth will try to purchase tobacco in the virtual store."


Hidden Tobacco Product Display
(Photo courtesy of Pediatrics)

Although banning the product displays had a significant impact, the researchers found that banning tobacco ads had minimal impact on youth’s purchase attempts.

"In the U.S., tobacco companies spend most of their advertising dollars promoting cigarettes in retail stores," Kim said.  "Open displays of tobacco products normalize smoking and stimulate unplanned purchases. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gives state and local governments legal authority to regulate the time, place and manner of cigarette advertising. The results of this study suggest enclosing tobacco products out of view may deter youth from attempting to purchase tobacco. The display of tobacco products has been banned in countries such as Canada and Australia, but not in the U.S."