MONDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. teens are much less
likely to buy cigarettes if they are hidden from view, new research
The study tracked the purchases of a group of adolescents as
they "shopped" in several different virtual convenience stores that
contained different cigarette sale scenarios. Some stores featured
open displays of tobacco products for sale, while others
strategically hid their cigarettes behind a cabinet. Similarly,
cigarette advertising was either prominent, hidden or banned.
"Studies show that because tobacco displays and ads are so common in stores, they may give kids the false perception that smoking cigarettes is a common behavior," explained study author Annice Kim, a research public health analyst with the public health policy research program at RTI International in Durham, N.C. "Tobacco displays also influence adults to purchase cigarettes when they had not planned to, which may make it harder for current smokers to quit and may even influence recent quitters to relapse."
Passage of the U.S. Tobacco Control Act in 2009 gave states and
local governments the legal means to tackle the issue by allowing
them to restrict various aspects of cigarette advertising strategy
"[So] banning the visible display of tobacco products is one option that states are considering," along the lines of current bans already in place in both Canada and Australia, Kim said.
In the new study's virtual, interactive convenience stores, she
said, "we found that kids who shopped in the enclosed [hidden]
display version of the store were less likely to try purchasing
cigarettes than kids in the open-display version of the store."
However, she said, the researchers "found no support that
banning tobacco ads throughout the store would discourage kids from
trying to purchase cigarettes."
The findings appear online Dec. 3 issue and in the January print
The authors noted that according to the latest 2010 U.S Federal
Trade Commission statistics, the tobacco industry spends roughly $8
billion on cigarette advertising and promotions. And the lion's
share, Kim said, is devoted to the promotion of cigarettes in a
retail store setting.
The new study focused on more than 1,200 adolescents between the
ages of 13 and 17, some of whom were smokers and some of whom were
All were randomly presented with one of six different virtual
convenience store situations, containing various scenario
combinations in which cigarette products were either openly present
or present but hidden, while tobacco ads were either present,
hidden or banned altogether. The teens were given free rein as to
what they "clicked" and purchased, with the only instruction being
to pick up one drink, one snack and two additional items at
The result: The banning of all in-store cigarette ads appeared
to have a minimal impact on cigarette shopping habits. However,
when shopping in stores where tobacco products themselves were
hidden, only 32 percent of teens appeared to be aware of the
availability of cigarettes to begin with, compared with about 85 of
those who shopped in stores where cigarettes were openly
In turn, only 9 percent of teens shopping in the hidden display
scenario bought cigarettes, compared with more than 24 percent of
those who virtually strolled through a store that openly featured
"These results suggest that policies that require retailers to store tobacco products out of view -- behind enclosed cabinets -- could have a positive public health impact by discouraging kids from purchasing cigarettes," Kim said.
For his part, Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at
the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, embraced the study findings,
and suggested that they support the need for new cigarette display
restriction laws, given that for-profit stores are otherwise highly
unlikely to voluntarily limit the display of products.
"The study's finding that the removal of tobacco product displays reduced youth tobacco purchases shows just how effective the displays are in getting kids to smoke," McGoldrick said. "States and the federal government should increase tobacco taxes and invest in tobacco prevention programs to counter the impact of these industry efforts."
For more on children and tobacco, visit the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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