Dr Ford’s team examined the impact of the policy on 11 to 16-year-olds who had never smoked. The Youth Tobacco Policy Survey canvassed the views of 3,791 young people – including 2,953 who had never smoked – across the UK at three time points: in 2011, prior to the implementation of the ban; in 2014, when the ban had been partially implemented; and in 2016, following full implementation.
At each stage, participants were asked whether they noticed cigarettes displayed at point-of-sale; about their awareness of cigarette brands; and about their smoking susceptibility – established by the absence of a firm decision not to smoke. Each person was also asked about their support for the display ban, and whether it made cigarettes seem unappealing and smoking unacceptable.
Dr Ford said: “Prior to the display ban, we found that young never smokers who noticed cigarettes displayed at point-of-sale, and those who were aware of more cigarette brands, were more likely to indicate being susceptible to smoking.
“Both partial and full implementation of the display ban were followed by statistically significant reductions in youth smoking susceptibility and noticing cigarettes at point-of-sale.”
Smoking susceptibility among never smokers decreased from 28 percent pre-ban to 23 percent mid-ban, and 18 percent post-ban. Noticing cigarettes at point-of-sale decreased from 81 percent pre-ban, to 28 percent post-ban; and cigarette brand awareness also reduced, with the average number of cigarette brands recalled declining from 0.97 pre-ban to 0.69 post-ban.
“We also found that young never smokers’ support for a display ban was very high,” Dr Ford continued. “For example, post-ban, 90 percent of never smokers aged 11 to 16 years supported the display ban, while 77 percent indicated that it made cigarettes seem unappealing, and 87 percent that it made smoking seem unacceptable.”
Kruti Shrotri, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco control manager, said: “Glitzy displays and glamorous packaging helped the tobacco industry to lure the next generation of smokers into taking up a deadly addiction. But contrary to Big Tobacco’s belief that banning displays would make no difference this study shows that by putting cigarettes out of sight and out of mind far fewer youngsters are taking up the deathly habit.”
The paper, The impact of a ban on the open display of tobacco products in retail outlets on never smoking youth in the United Kingdom: findings from a repeat cross-sectional survey before, during and after implementation, is published in Tobacco Control.