Removal of tobacco displays working- study
A new study suggests that July 2012 legislation that removed all point-of-sale tobacco displays from shops selling cigarettes has helped reduce smoking among New Zealand school students to record low levels.
The research included Year 10 students (age 14-15) at schools across New Zealand.
Lead researcher Professor Richard Edwards from the Department of Public Health says they found that the removal of point-of-sale (POS) tobacco displays, accompanied by increased enforcement measures and penalties for selling tobacco to minors, was followed by significant reductions both in experimental and regular smoking.
For example, the proportion of children who had tried smoking but were not regular smokers fell, from 23-24% in 2011 and 2012 before the changes, to 17% in 2014.
The proportion of smoking students who were buying or trying to buy cigarettes from stores also declined.
“This study provides strong evidence that the removal of prominent point-of-sale displays from almost all New Zealand dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets has protected children from starting to smoke, and has contributed to reducing smoking among schoolchildren to its lowest level for two decades,” says Professor Edwards.
An earlier NZ study found that children who frequently visited shops that sell tobacco, such as dairies, convenience stores, supermarkets and service stations, were at greater risk of trying smoking.
Māori Party MP Marama Fox welcomed the results of the study.
“It is heartening to see that the trend is continuing down. 7% drop in 4 years continues to prove that the strategies undertaken by the government in conjunction with the Māori Party are working,” says Fox, “We are committed to raising a generation of smokefree young people who are not burdened with the trial of quitting, who are not burdened with smoking related illness, who are not burdened with premature death. It’s about protecting our whakapapa for our future.”
The findings contradict the assertions of the tobacco industry that removing point-of-sale displays would not work. Professor Janet Hoek from the Department of Marketing drew parallels with the current debate about tobacco plain packaging.
Professor Hoek says, “The tobacco industry has a history of saying that tobacco control measures won’t work and predicting disastrous effects, even when the evidence suggests otherwise. They are currently making such arguments to oppose the introduction of plain packaging. This study shows once again that the industry is not to be trusted.”
Fox is similarly dismissive of the track record of the tobacco industry, “The tobacco companies will do what they always do…. deflect the conversation to protect their profits, muddy the waters with conflicting data and statistics, spin the story in a different direction and take it straight to the bank.”
The study used data from the ASH Year 10 survey – an annual classroom-based survey of around 25,000 Year 10 students that is used to provide national data on smoking among school students in New Zealand. It was published in the journal Tobacco Control, the leading international journal for research into tobacco control policy and practice.