Tob Control 22:376-381 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050427
  • Research paper

Unplanned cigarette purchases and tobacco point of sale advertising: a potential barrier to smoking cessation

  1. Benjamin J Apelberg3
  1. 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Eben J Clattenburg, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Doctors’ Lounge, 110 Harvey/Nelson Building, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA; eclatte1{at}
  • Received 6 January 2012
  • Accepted 10 October 2012
  • Published Online First 8 November 2012


Background In the USA, tobacco marketing expenditure is increasingly concentrated at the point of sale (POS). Previous studies have demonstrated an association between exposure to tobacco POS advertising and increased smoking initiation, but limited evidence is available on adult smokers’ decisions and behaviours.

Methods An immediate post-cigarette purchase survey was administered to 301 cigarette purchasers outside of two grocery stores in Vermont to assess the prevalence of unplanned purchases and opinions about POS tobacco advertising and displays.

Results In total, 11.3% of purchases were reported as unplanned. Certain groups were more likely to make unplanned purchases including: 18–24-year-olds (OR: 2.1, 95% CI 1.0 to 4.4), less than daily smokers (OR: 5.6, 95% CI 1.9 to 16.9), smokers who made 3+ quit attempts in the previous year (OR: 2.4, 95% CI 0.9 to 6.0), those who plan to quit in the next month (OR: 3.7, 95% CI 1.6 to 9.0), and those who agreed that tobacco POS advertising makes quitting smoking harder (OR: 2.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 4.8). Overall, 31.2% of participants agreed that tobacco POS advertising makes quitting smoking harder. Individuals who intended to quit within the next month, made 3+ quit attempts in the last year, or made an unplanned cigarette purchase were the most likely to agree.

Conclusions Young adults and individuals making multiple quit attempts or planning to quit in the next month are more likely to make unplanned cigarette purchases. Reducing unplanned purchases prompted by tobacco POS advertising could improve the likelihood of successful cessation among smokers.

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