ADDICTION
January 5, 2011

Ban Tobacco Displays?

In Ireland, a ban on displaying tobacco products changed attitudes and didn't hurt shopkeepers' bottom lines.

Removing tobacco displays has been suggested as a good way to prevent people from starting to smoke. It would send young people the message that tobacco is something other than a normal consumer product. Even smokers like the idea. The primary objection to removing smoking displays and in-store tobacco advertising is that it might be harmful to shopkeepers' income.

The Nottingham researchers found no effect on retailer income since the ban took effect. It did find some changes in the attitudes of young people about tobacco.

A study from the University of Nottingham suggests no need for shopkeepers to worry; removing tobacco displays can change young people's attitude about tobacco without affecting shopkeeper income.

Ireland outlawed tobacco displays and in-store tobacco advertising on July 1, 2009. Tobacco could still be sold; it just couldn't be displayed. The law also outlawed cigarette vending machines. The Nottingham researchers found no effect on retailer income since the ban took effect. It did find some changes in the attitudes of young people about tobacco.

Before the displays were hidden, 62% of young people thought that more than one in five people their age smoked. This has since fallen to 46%. And the number of teenagers who recalled seeing tobacco displays fell from 81% to 22%, which was more or less the reason for passing the law in the first place.

The law is more popular now than when it was passed. Originally, 58% of the people were in favor of the law; this has risen to 66%.

Similar legislation is due to be introduced in the UK in October 2011 for large shops and October 2013 for small shops.

Large and colorful cigarette displays are eye-catching and can make smoking seem attractive. Removing them seems to upset no one other than the tobacco companies. Every smoker starts out by smoking a first cigarette. It's too early to tell whether removing tobacco displays will be effective at preventing people from smoking that first cigarette.

There's no word on when such laws might be coming to the U.S.

An article detailing the study was published online by the journal, Tobacco Control on November 18, 2010 and will appear in a future print issue of the journal.

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