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The effect of retail cigarette pack displays on unplanned purchases: results from immediate postpurchase interviews


Objective: To assess the influence of point-of-sale (POS) cigarette displays on unplanned purchases.

Methods: Intercept interviews were conducted with customers observed purchasing cigarettes from retail outlets featuring POS cigarette displays. Measures included intention to purchase cigarettes prior to entering the store, unprompted and prompted salience of POS tobacco displays, urge to buy cigarettes as a result of seeing the POS display, brand switching and support for a ban on POS cigarette displays.

Results: In total, 206 daily smokers aged 18–76 years (90 male, 116 female) were interviewed. Unplanned cigarette purchases were made by 22% of participants. POS displays influenced nearly four times as many unplanned purchases as planned purchases (47% vs 12%, p<0.01). Brand switching was reported among 5% of participants, half of whom were influenced by POS displays. Four times as many smokers were supportive of a ban on POS tobacco displays than unsupportive (49% vs 12%), and 28% agreed that such a ban would make it easier to quit.

Conclusions: POS tobacco displays act as a form of advertising even in the absence of advertising materials. They stimulate unplanned cigarette purchases, play an important role in brand selection and tempt smokers trying to quit. This justifies removing POS tobacco displays from line of sight—something that very few smokers in our sample would object to.

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