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Am J Public Health. 2014 May;104(5):888-95. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301723. Epub 2014 Mar 13.

Influence of point-of-sale tobacco displays and graphic health warning signs on adults: evidence from a virtual store experimental study.

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  • 1Annice E. Kim, James M. Nonnemaker, Brett R. Loomis, Paul R. Shafer, Asma Shaikh, and Matthew C. Farrelly are with the Public Health Policy Research Program, and John W. Holloway is with the Discovery Science and Technology Division, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC. Edward Hill is with Tarheel Technologies, Durham, NC.



We tested the impact of banning tobacco displays and posting graphic health warning signs at the point of sale (POS).


We designed 3 variations of the tobacco product display (open, enclosed [not visible], enclosed with pro-tobacco ads) and 2 variations of the warning sign (present vs absent) with virtual store software. In December 2011 and January 2012, we randomized a national convenience sample of 1216 adult smokers and recent quitters to 1 of 6 store conditions and gave them a shopping task. We tested for the main effects of the enclosed display, the sign, and their interaction on urge to smoke and tobacco purchase attempts.


The enclosed display significantly lowered current smokers' (B = -7.05; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -13.20, -0.91; P < .05) and recent quitters' (Β = -6.00, 95% CI = -11.00, -1.00; P < .01) urge to smoke and current smokers' purchase attempts (adjusted odds ratio = 0.06; 95% CI = 0.03, 0.11; P < .01). The warning sign had no significant main effect on study outcomes or interaction with enclosed display.


These data show that POS tobacco displays influence purchase behavior. Banning them may reduce cues to smoke and unplanned tobacco purchases.

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