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Removal of point of sale tobacco promotion has reduced awareness of smoking among young people

Removal of in-store tobacco advertising not causing loss of income in retail business

The removal of point of sale tobacco promotion is significantly reducing awareness of tobacco among young people and not causing loss of income in retail business, according to research published online today (Friday, November 19) in the journal Tobacco Control.

Independent research carried out by the University of Nottingham, found that recall of tobacco displays among young people fell from 81% before the measure to 22% afterwards. The research also shows that removal of point of sale tobacco promotion has not caused loss of income for Irish retailers.

The research was funded by the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC), Cancer Research UK and the Irish Cancer Society.

Advertising and display of tobacco products at retail counters and vending machines has been prohibited since 1 July 2009. The research comprised two parallel studies: The first was a study of awareness and attitudes among young people and adults* and the second an economic analysis of cigarette sales data**.

Ireland is the first country in the EU to introduce this legislation and these studies provide the first body of research of its type.

Lead researcher, Professor Ann McNeill explained that their research found that not only has awareness of tobacco displays decreased but atitudes to smoking prevalence, the availability of tobacco and to quitting smoking have also changed. Key findings include:

  • Recall of tobacco displays among teenagers decreased from 81% before the legislation to 22% afterwards. Among adults this decreased from 49% to 22%;
  • The proportion of youth believing more than 20% of children their age smoked decreased from 62% to 46%;
  • The proportion of children believing that they would be able to purchase cigarettes successfully declined from 32% to 25%;
  • 38% of teenagers, after implementation of the law, thought the measure would make it easier for children not to smoke;
  • 14% of adult smokers thought the law made it easier to quit smoking (post legislation);
  • Support for the law among adults increased from 58% before the legislation to 66% afterwards;
  • The ban on display and advertising was having a greater impact on smokers than non-smokers. Before the measure was introduced, 59% of smokers compared to 46% of non-smokers were able to recall tobacco promotion at the retail counter while post legislation 20% of smokers recalled it compared to 23% of non-smokers.

Professor McNeill said that the research showed encouraging signs that the removal of point of sale tobacco promotion will protect young people.

“The removal of in-store tobacco advertising appears to be contributing to a de-normalisation of tobacco as evidenced by declines in the proportion of children thinking that more than 20% of teenagers smoked. It also appears to be providing a more supportive environment for children not to smoke.”

In relation to smoking prevalence rates, Professor McNeill said that the research shows that implementation of the law did not have an immediate effect on smoking prevalence over and above the underlying trends.

“This is to be expected given the addictiveness of smoking and the fact that many smokers make several unsuccessful attempts before eventually succeeding. The law is popular even among smokers and it is encouraging that some smokers believe the law will make it easier for them to quit smoking. We believe that we will see an effect of the law on smoking prevalence over a longer time scale.”

Removal of in-store tobacco promotion not causing loss of income in retail business

According to researcher and economist, Dr Casey Quinn, the key findings in the economic study were:

  • Removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays had no statistically significant short term impact (one year post ban) on cigarette pack sales;
  • There is a general downward trend in cigarette pack sales which preceded the point of sale policy by several years;
  • Impact on sales will likely take effect over a much longer period allowing retailers to adapt over time.

Dr. Quinn said that claims of substantial revenue losses for retailers since the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays are not borne out by the data.

“This is the first study to examine the impact of national legislation removing point of sale tobacco promotional displays on the retail sector. No statistically significant change in cigarette pack sales was observed following implementation of the legislation over and above seasonal and underlying trends. This was the case even for smaller independent retailers.

“These findings contradict several recent reports coming from the retail sector that cigarette sales have rapidly decreased since the removal of promotional displays of tobacco and that this decline can be attributed to the policy. In contrast, the analysis indicates that any decline is almost surely a function of broader phenomena, such as the global recession.”

Dr. Casey Quinn said that retailers will have to adapt to the overall long term decline in tobacco sales and that smaller retailers could instead make a virtue out of carrying a strongly health promoting ethos in their stores.

OTC Chairperson, Norma Cronin, welcomed the publication of this independent objective study led by University of Nottingham. Ms Cronin said that such research plays an important role in extending the evidence base for tobacco control and provided encouragement for other countries to introduce similar measures.

“The study has provided evidence that the removal of advertising and display of tobacco products was helping to denormalise tobacco use among younger groups.

“Tobacco control is bringing real benefits to public health in Ireland, particularly to young people. However, further investment and action is urgently required to tackle the high smoking rates among our adult population and to reduce the burden of cost to the State, the smoker and their families. Such an investment will also help prevent the thousands of early deaths due to tobacco addiction,” Ms. Cronin concluded.

Notes to editor

Download the full papers at :

http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/recent

* McNeill, A. Evaluation of the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays in Ireland, 2010. Tobacco Control.

** Quinn C, Lewis S, Edwards R, McNeill A. Economic evaluation of the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays in Ireland, 2010. Tobacco Control.

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