Young people believe ‘behind the counter’ shop displays of cigarettes encourage smoking and are considered “cool, fun and attractive” according to new research published in Health Promotion Practice.
The results come as regulations to remove these shop displays are in danger of being scrapped by the Coalition Government. The 2009 Health Act aims to remove cigarette vending machines in 2011 and put tobacco out of sight in all shops by the end of 2013.
Twelve focus groups of 11 to 16 year olds – including smokers and non-smokers – were asked what they thought about a range of different measures to discourage smoking, and whether they thought these encourage or discourage smoking among their peers.
Young people were supportive of the smokefree laws with smoking in pubs, restaurants and other public places no longer considered socially acceptable. Smoking indoors around children – in the home and in the car – was also thought of as unacceptable. Many of those taking part in the groups reported that their parents no longer smoked around them.
Buying cigarettes in shops was reported as being easy. Responses highlight that some shops do not ask for identification and older siblings can also buy cigarettes for underage smokers. The groups believe that making access to tobacco more difficult was a suitable way to control youth smoking.
From the 1970s the number of UK smokers has fallen from 55 per cent of the population to around a fifth (22 per cent) of the population in 2008.
Banning tobacco advertising, increasing the price of tobacco and the legal age to buy tobacco and smoke free legislation have all played important roles in helping to lower smoking rates. New measures such as the removal of tobacco displays in shops and the banning of cigarette vending machines are the key next steps to help protect young people from tobacco marketing and reduce youth smoking rates.
Dr Crawford Moodie, lead researcher based at the University of Stirling, said: “Our study provides a timely insight into what young people think about a range of measures to help reduce smoking and whether these might encourage young people to smoke.
“Discouraging young people from smoking remains a key goal in public health but little research has been done to discover how young people feel about the steps that have already been taken to control tobacco. The responses show clear support from young people for tobacco control measures and add weight to the need to remove the flashy shop displays of tobacco.”
Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “These findings confirm that shop displays of tobacco make smoking more attractive to kids. We urge the government to confirm their commitment to protect our children, now and in the future, from tobacco. The influence of tobacco marketing must be removed from lives of young people. The legislation is in place – all that remains is for it to be implemented. Business profits are no reason to allow the easy access of vending machines and colourful wall displays of cigarettes to remain. The health of children must come first.”
For more information contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or out of hours on 07050 264 059.
- Brown A, & Moodie C (2010). Adolescents’ Perceptions of Tobacco Control Measures in the United Kingdom. Health promotion practice PMID: 20421410
The tobacco control provisions in the 2009 Health Act cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Similar legislation was passed in Scotland as part of the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Act 2010.
More information about Cancer Research UK’s campaign to put tobacco out of sight.
Frequently asked questions about the tobacco marketing.
Statistics on smoking and cancer.