Polices that ban tobacco product displays at point of sale may reduce adults smoking by deterring purchases, though a single graphic health warning sign at the POS may not, according to a study by researchers at RTI International and Tarheel Technologies.
The study, published in the March issue of American Journal of Public Health, looked at the behaviors of more than 1,200 current adult smokers and recent quitters in a virtual convenience store in which tobacco products were openly visible, hidden behind a cabinet or hidden with a graphic health warning sign on display.
“Tobacco ads and displays may act as cues to smoke, stimulate purchases among customers who did not intend to buy cigarettes and influence relapse among recent quitters by stimulating cravings for cigarettes,” said Annice Kim, Ph.D., a senior social scientist at RTI and the study’s lead author. “Studies have shown that graphic antismoking media campaign advertisements can help encourage smokers to quit, though we found placing a single graphic health warning at the POS did not have the same effect.”
The results showed that adult smokers and recent quitters reported significantly lower urges to smoke when tobacco displays were hidden than when they were on display. The addition of a single graphic health warning sign at the point of sale did not affect smokers’ or recent quitters’ urge to smoke or affect their tobacco purchases.
“Our results suggest that policy makers should prioritize banning tobacco displays at point of sale,” Kim said. “Ireland, Canada and Australia have successfully banned point of sale tobacco displays, but no local or state government in the United States has done so yet.”
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