What is the impact of e-cigarette retail displays on attitudes to smoking and e-cigarette use in children?
Posted: April 25, 2022
Tobacco retail displays are banned in many countries, including in the UK. This ban is to address the link between these displays and increased smoking among adults, and greater susceptibility to smoking among children, leading to poorer health. Tobacco products are stored instead within covered units; however, these units often remain visible and positioned below tobacco signage.
There is no equivalent ban on displays of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in the UK, which are often positioned alongside covered tobacco storage units. There is currently an absence of evidence on whether e-cigarette retail displays are linked to increased smoking or e-cigarette use.
Our study aimed to look at the impact of exposure to e-cigarette retail displays on susceptibility to smoking and e-cigarette use, as well as their perceived harms, among children in the UK.
We conducted this study online, with children aged 13-17 years old. We randomised these children into four different groups. In each group, each child was shown 12 images of retail displays, which varied regarding the visibility of e-cigarette products (high or low visibility) and the proportion of e-cigarette images compared to images of unrelated products (e.g., confectionery, stamps, drinks) (high or low proportions) depending on the group:
Group1: nine images of high visibility e-cigarette displays and three images of unrelated products;
Group 2: three images of high visibility e-cigarette displays and nine images of unrelated products;
Group 3: nine images of low visibility e-cigarette displays and three images of unrelated products;
Group 4: three images of low visibility e-cigarette displays and nine images of unrelated products.
Overall, our study found no clear evidence in the full sample to suggest that exposure to e-cigarette retail displays increased children’s susceptibility to smoking or e-cigarette use. However, viewing a higher proportion of e-cigarette images did increase susceptibility to smoking among children who were regular store visitors or those paying more attention when completing the study. In addition, viewing higher visibility e-cigarette images reduced children’s perceived harm of smoking.
A review of the current regulatory discrepancy between tobacco and e-cigarette point-of-sale marketing is warranted.
Read the study here