Teenagers less likely to buy hidden cigarettes
When you want to keep kids from eating cookies, you hide the cookie jar. New research suggests that the same principle may be effective in preventing teenagers from picking up a smoking habit. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that teenagers are much less likely to buy cigarettes in convenience stores when the cigarettes themselves are hidden and the advertisements for the cigarettes are either understated or banned. For the study, researchers tracked the behavior of a group of teenagers who shopped in one of six virtual convenience stores. In each of the virtual stores, the cigarettes themselves were either on display or hidden, and cigarette advertisements were easily seen, hidden or banned.
Predictably, teenagers who shopped in stores that kept their cigarettes in an enclosed or hidden display, and had less advertising for cigarettes around the store were much less likely to buy the cigarettes than teenagers who shopped in a store where the cigarettes and the advertisements for them were on full display.
Researchers posit that the very presence of cigarette advertising and cigarettes on store shelves subtly suggests to teenagers that smoking cigarettes is a common and acceptable behavior, making them more likely to pick up the habit themselves. On the other hand, if the cigarettes are not visible, teenagers adopt a more ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach and do not even think to buy the cigarettes.
Research authors noted that the 2010 U.S. Federal Trade Commission statistics reveal that the tobacco industry spends about $8 billion on cigarette advertising and promotions, most of which is spent on the promotion of cigarettes in retail stores. This new research gives momentum to public health measures that attempt to limit or ban cigarette advertising to children and teens.