Restricting Product Placement
What is it?
Tobacco product placement includes advertisements and package displays at the point of sale, sometimes called “power walls.” These displays create an environment that facilitates tobacco use, among both adults and children who see them:
- Exposed youth become more likely to initiate smoking
- Exposed children ‘normalize’ usage of tobacco products, build brand recognition, and perceive tobacco products to be more easily available and accessible
- Exposed adult smokers are prompted to make unplanned purchases or to “light up,” which can undermine quit attempts
- Adolescent susceptibility to smoking, due to POS exposure, is stronger among small shop visits vs large shop visits
What can be done?
Banning tobacco product displays are one strategy to curb population smoking rates. Tobacco control programs in Australia, Iceland, Thailand, much of Canada, and elsewhere have implemented tobacco product display bans in the retail environment. Smoking rates may decline as a result – and retailers have not faced any economic burden Product placement restrictions – full or partial – require storing tobacco packages out of view of the customer, often under the counter, in closed drawers or covered cabinets, such as in the images below. Retail customers who would like to purchase cigarettes make brand and product choices from a catalog listing or menu and not from any visual display.
Where have display bans been introduced?
Tobacco control programs in 12 countries across the globe have implemented or are in the process of implementing a tobacco display ban. After passing the Tobacco Control Act of 2001, Iceland became the first country to implement a tobacco display ban . Over the last several years several more countries passed their own display bans including Australia, Thailand, much of Canada, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Norway, England and Scotland . The United States has now become the 13th country to pursue a tobacco display ban through the introduction of Mayor Bloomberg's "Tobacco Product Display Restriction" bill.
Do display bans hurt stores?
Tobacco display bans are often met with strong opposition due to economic concerns around the impact of display bans on tobacco sales volume, time it takes to serve a customer as well as costs incurred to modify shelving and storage compartments.
The UK's Association of Convenience Stores raised concerns that customer transaction times, averaging at 26 seconds per customer, would double as a result of the display ban and in turn decrease visits from repeat customers . Christopher Street of Imperial Tobacco conceded that although serving times increased initially, as store clerks became accustomed to the new set up of product storage customer serving times decreased .
In order to address claims that product display bans have a negative impact on cigarette sales, researchers Quinn, Lewis, Edwards and McNeill conducted an analysis of short term economic impact of display bans in Ireland. Using pre-post display ban cigarette sales data, Quinn et. al found that there was no effect on cigarette sales attributable to the display ban up to 12 months post implementation.
The Association of Convenience Stores' 2009 joint response with the Scottish Grocer's Federation to the Health and Sport Committee estimated that average costs associated with retail space modifications would be $13,000 . Post display ban analysis in Ireland consisting of a sample of 100 retailers revealed that storeowners on average spent $433 to comply with the requirements of the law . Only 22% of stores had to install a completely new shelving unit .
Experiences from the field
The Village of Haverstraw, NY recently enacted such a ban on the display tobacco products, specifically at stores that are open to minors. This law would have marked the most progressive local policy on tobacco display bans to date in the United States. Unfortunately, the New York Association of Convenience Stores and 7 major tobacco companies filed a lawsuit contesting that this policy violated their first amendment rights to freedom of speech. In response, Haverstraw withdrew its ban to avoid a court battle that would be costly for a small town to fight.
Overall, product display bans are an international tobacco control strategy that has not yet been fully implemented in the United States. When thinking about this approach, consider that banning the display of tobacco products is currently best suited for high capacity jurisdictions with the ability to defend a lawsuit. For more information, see the Next Steps and Resources boxes.