Smoking rates in young people fall following point-of-sale tobacco display ban, study
Smoking rates in Australia among young people aged 12-24 years fell from 15 per cent to 11 per cent in the 24 months following the ban on displaying tobacco at the point-of-sale, according to new research from the Cancer Institute New South Wales (NSW).
The study, published Tuesday 7 October 2014 in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research was conducted following the point-of-sale tobacco ban in NSW in 2010 and QLD in 2011, and also showed a decline in cigarette ban awareness. The study found that the number of young people able to recall at least one brand fell from 65 per cent to 59 per cent, which the Cancer Institute NSW said was “an important change given the proven association between brand engagement and youth smoking”.
The report is the first to assess the medium-term effects of the ban on youth attitudes and smoking behaviour. It suggests that the removal of tobacco displays from retailers has been associated with changes in important beliefs about smoking among adolescents and young adults.
Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow said it had long been suggested that tobacco product displays effectively advertise tobacco brands, and that exposure to these displays and tobacco marketing was associated with both smoking susceptibility and smoking uptake among youth.
“Point-of-sale tobacco bans are contributing to the de-normalisation of smoking, particularly among youth, who we know are most at risk of being influenced by the power of tobacco branding,” Professor Currow said.
“This report demonstrates that point-of-sale display bans, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, are effective,” Professor Currow said. “This report joins the mounting evidence that demonstrates our world-leading strategies – including plain packaging, smoke-free policies and mass media campaigns – are making an impact,” he said.
Professor Currow said jurisdictions across the world should consider the banning of retail tobacco displays “so that one day in the near future, all tobacco products can be truly out of sight and out of mind”.
Another key predictor of youth smoking is the perception of peer smoking prevalence. The report found that in the six to 12 months following the point-of-sale ban, young people were significantly less likely to overestimate the smoking of their peers.
“This further indicates that there is a vital shift taking place among our younger generation,” Professor Currow said. “Their awareness and perceptions of cigarettes are being impacted in a positive way, and we can have hope that the burden of smoking related illness and disease across our community may lessen in future, as behaviours continue to change for the better,” he said.