Influence of tobacco displays and ads on youth: A virtual store experiment
OBJECTIVE: To examine the potential impact of banning tobacco displays and ads at the point of sale (POS) on youth outcomes.
METHODS: An interactive virtual convenience store was created with scenarios in which the tobacco product display at the POS was either openly visible (status quo) or enclosed behind a cabinet (display ban), and tobacco ads in the store were either present or absent. A national convenience sample of 1216 youth aged 13 to 17 who were either smokers or nonsmokers susceptible to smoking participated in the study. Youth were randomized to 1 of 6 virtual store conditions and given a shopping task to complete in the virtual store. During the shopping task, we tracked youth’s attempts to purchase tobacco products. Subsequently, youth completed a survey that assessed their perceptions about the virtual store and perceptions about the ease of buying cigarettes from the virtual store.
RESULTS: Compared with youth in the status quo condition, youth in the display ban condition were less aware that tobacco products were for sale (32.0% vs 85.2%) and significantly less likely to try purchasing tobacco products in the virtual store (odds ratio = 0.30, 95% confidence interval = 0.13?0.67, P < .001). Banning ads had minimal impact on youth’s purchase attempts.
CONCLUSIONS: Policies that ban tobacco product displays at the POS may help reduce youth smoking by deterring youth from purchasing tobacco products at retail stores.