New figures released today in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research show that smoking rates among young people aged 12-24 years fell from 15 per cent to 11 per cent in the 24 months following bans on displaying tobacco at the point-of-sale.
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.
CEO and Chief Cancer Officer
The report, undertaken by the Cancer Institute NSW before and after the point-of-sale tobacco bans in NSW in 2010 and QLD in 2011, also showed a decline in cigarette brand awareness. The number of young people able to recall at least one brand fell from 65 per cent to 59 per cent - 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 bans on youth attitudes and smoking behaviour, with the greatest change in rates of current smoking observed in youth who frequently visit stores that sell tobacco. This 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 has long been suggested that tobacco product displays effectively advertise tobacco brands, and that exposure to these displays and tobacco marketing is 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. This report demonstrates that point-of-sale display bans, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, are effective. 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.
“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,” he said.
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. 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,” said Professor Currow.