Teenagers may be less likely to buy cigarettes in convenience stores if tobacco ads and products are out of sight, according to a new study.
Hiding cigarettes and other tobacco products could reduce teens’ risk of trying these products in the future, RAND Corp. researchers found.
“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, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, in a news release from the nonprofit organization.
Tobacco “power walls” at retail stores have largely replaced tobacco advertising in magazines and on billboards, Shadel and his colleagues said. These walls, which are usually situated behind cashiers, display hundreds of tobacco products, branded posters, product slogans and prices.
In conducting the study, the researchers recreated a fully stocked convenience store. They also built a tobacco power wall. The wall was placed in one of three locations: behind the cashier, on a side wall far from the cashier, or hidden behind a screen.
A total of 241 preteens and teens, between 11 and 17 years old, were told they were participating in a study examining teen drugstore shopping habits. The teens were randomly assigned to one of three groups, each in a “store” with a different power wall location. They each received $10 to spend in any way they wanted in the store.
After they shopped, the teens filled out a survey to assess their feelings about cigarettes and their risk for future smoking.
The study, published Nov. 23 in the journal Tobacco Control, found that a hidden tobacco power wall reduced cigarette susceptibility by 11 percent.
Moving the power wall to a less-obvious location, however, had no effect on the teens’ risk for smoking or using tobacco.
The researchers said health officials could consider these findings when making policy decisions about point-of-sale tobacco advertising.
The American Cancer Society provides more information on child and teen tobacco use.