The risk of 11- to 16-year-olds taking up smoking has reduced following the introduction of a ban on the open display of tobacco, according to a new study.
The research by the University of Stirling – the first of its kind – also found that, for that age group, the policy’s implementation made cigarettes seem unappealing and smoking unacceptable.
Published in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control and funded by Cancer Research UK, the study also identified extremely high support for a display ban amongst young people.
Lead author Dr Allison Ford, from the university’s institute for social marketing, said the findings supported the health strategy’s intention.
“This is the first study to show the impacts of a tobacco point-of-sale display ban on young people across the UK before, during and after implementation,” she said.
“Our work confirms that placing tobacco out of sight helps safeguard young people.
“Our findings help to justify this policy approach in the UK and elsewhere.”
In the UK, the ban on the open display of tobacco products at the point-of-sale was phased in between 2012 and 2015.
In 2012, large stores and supermarkets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland put tobacco products out of sight, before Scotland followed in 2013.
UK-wide smaller stores had until 2015 to adapt displays to cover tobacco products.
Dr Ford’s team examined the impact of the policy on 11 to 16-year-olds who had never smoked.
Smoking susceptibility among “never smokers” fell from 28 per cent pre-ban to 23 per cent mid-ban and 18 per cent post-ban. Post-ban, 90 per cent of never smokers aged 11 to 16 years supported the display ban, while 77 per cent indicated it made cigarettes seem unappealing. A further 87 per cent said it made smoking seem unacceptable.
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.
Kruti Shrotri, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco control manager, said: “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.”