A new study has concluded that teens buy less tobacco when tobacco displays are out-of-sight.
The study, conducted by researchers at the independent research institute RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, used a virtual reality game to test the effects of covering up such cigarette displays on teen purchases while shopping. They reported their findings in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Using the game, researchers sent more than 1,200 kids between age 13 and 17, into a simulated online convenience store with the task of purchasing four items. One of the items had to be from the snack aisle and one from the drink coolers. The remaining two products could be any that the kids chose from the store.
Some of the kids who tried the game saw cigarette displays right behind the counter, while in other versions of the game, the displays were covered up. Teens could ask for cigarettes (even though they would be denied because of age,) but what the researchers wanted to know was how many would ask if they didn't see the tobacco products in plain sight.
They found that 16 to 24 percent of teens tried to buy tobacco products when the display was visible, compared to 9 to 11 percent when it was covered up.
Is that enough information to support the notion that cigarette displays should be banned from stores where teens shop? It's a tough call, because cigarettes are not usually an impulse buy for teens. They go into a convenience store to buy cigarettes when they want one, they don't necessarily decide to smoke because they see cigarettes available. But some experts argue that banning the displays might still be a good way to reduce teen smoking as it would limit their exposure to tobacco marketing.
What do you think?