Keeping tobacco products out of view in convenience stores significantly reduces teenagers’ susceptibility to future cigarette use compared to when tobacco advertising and products are visible, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
The study, conducted in a laboratory replica of a convenience store, is the first to use a realistic setting to examine whether limiting displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products in retail outlets can reduce the intention of young people to begin smoking.
Researchers found an 11 percent reduction in cigarette smoking susceptibility when the tobacco “power wall” was hidden compared to when the display of tobacco products was visible behind the cashier. The findings are being published in the journal Tobacco Control.
“These findings suggest limiting the visibility of tobacco displays in retail stores may reduce the number of young people who try cigarettes,” said William Shadel, associate director of RAND Population Health Program and senior behavioral scientist at RAND in a news release.
Power walls at point-of-sale retail locations display hundreds of tobacco products along with branded posters, product slogans and prices. Power walls are usually positioned behind the cashier. In the current study, researchers created a power wall consistent with what would normally be found in a typical convenience store.
In recent years, the tobacco industry has shifted most of its advertising from places such as magazines and billboards to point-of-sale advertising in retail locations. Canada and several other countries have enacted laws requiring that the power walls be hidden from view and only customers of legal age may view tobacco products.
For the RAND study, researchers had teens visit a replica of a convenience store to do shopping while the tobacco power wall was in one of three random locations: behind the cashier, on a sidewall away from the cashier or hidden behind a screen.
A total of 241 adolescents aged 11 and 17 participated in the study. The teens were told the study was looking at adolescent convenience store shopping habits. The teens were enrolled in the study regardless of past tobacco use.