We know that the tobacco industry uses point of sale advertising to effectively attract new, current, and recently quit smokers, and according to industry documents, this advertising strategy includes the display of the cigarette pack itself, particularly when a part of “power walls.”  Power walls like the one below are prominent displays of shelving and advertising of tobacco products in retail settings, usually located behind the counter.
They easily draw attention to tobacco products and can prompt impulse purchases. Tobacco companies often establish contracts to pay retailers for this prime merchandising spot. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2012, the tobacco industry spent $335 million on promotional allowances to tobacco retailers to control the strategic shelving and placement of tobacco products.
A new study published in the journal Tobacco Control provides additional evidence for policies and regulatory options restricting tobacco displays like “power walls” in retail settings in order to reduce the risk of initiating cigarette use among youth. This study, conducted in a replica convenience store, demonstrated that adolescents ages 11-17 who were exposed to a more prominent and visible cigarette “power wall” located behind the counter reported higher susceptibility to future cigarette smoking compared to adolescents exposed to a tobacco display hidden by an opaque wall. Levels of smoking susceptibility remained high in the condition where the power wall was moved to a sidewall, indicating the need to hide the displays completely to achieve reductions in smoking risk. In this case, out of sight may mean out of mind.
Display bans have been enacted in countries such as Iceland, Canada, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and the United Kingdom, and are part of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Evidence has shown high retailer compliance, denormalization of tobacco use, and preliminary support for declines in tobacco use in combination with other comprehensive restrictions on tobacco promotions.[3,4,5] However, such policies have yet to be successfully passed in the United States. Read the full study here and review the resources below for additional information.
- Learn more about display bans as a way to restrict tobacco placement in retail settings.
- Review the Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy’s “Tobacco Product Display Restrictions” brief and model ordinance for additional support.
- Review the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium’s “Tips and Tools: Placement of Tobacco Products“