Point of Sale Display
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Two strands, one strategy: End tobacco displays, introduce plain packaging (pdf)
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Download a pdf version of the information below
This briefing provides information on the tobacco point of sale display ban, why it is needed, implementation dates, and evidence of what has occurred in other jurisdictions that have implemented a similar ban.
Since the ban on tobacco advertising in the UK in 2003, tobacco companies have become increasingly reliant on displays at the point of sale to draw attention to their products and stimulate sales. Evidence shows that children are more likely to smoke if they are exposed to in-store tobacco marketing (See Reasons for a ban - below).
The Health Act 2009 was introduced following a widespread consultation on the future of tobacco control that received over 100,000 (mostly positive) responses.(1) The Act included measures prohibiting the display of tobacco products at the point of sale in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Coalition Government confirmed that it would implement the legislation, in England from April 2012 in large stores and April 2015 in all other stores.(2)
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In England, since 6 April 2012 it is illegal to display tobacco products at the point of sale in large stores. The same restrictions will apply in small stores from 6 April 2015. A large store is a store with a relevant floor area exceeding 280 square meters and is based on the definition in the Sunday Trading Act 1994.
From the relevant date, it is or will be illegal for any business selling tobacco products to display tobacco products to the public. The display of prices of tobacco products is also restricted.
Stores can display tobacco products temporarily in some circumstances(3):
Following requests to buy or view tobacco by customers over 18 (age checks must be carried out before showing them tobacco product)
- Incidental displays while staff are: restocking, assessing stock levels, cleaning, maintaining or refurbishing the storage unit or undertaking staff training
- In specified circumstances by bulk tobacconists or specialist tobacconists
- Following a request by an enforcement officer.
All price lists and labels for tobacco products must be in the format set out in the new law. All information displayed must use Helvetica plain font. The only information that can be given is the brand name and price of the product (cigars can include the country of origin, dimension and size, and pipe tobacco can include the cut and type of tobacco used).
Only three types of price display are permitted:
- Poster style lists (up to A3 size) can be permanently on show
- A list including pictures of products, which must not be on permanent display, can be shown to any customer aged 18 or over who asks for information
- Price labels are permitted for each product either on the covered shelf or on the front of the storage unit.
It is the retailer's responsibility to ensure that the correct changes are made by the date the law comes into effect. Non compliance with the legislation is a criminal offence. Any person found guilty of such an offence, including shop managers and shop workers, is liable:
- On summary conviction in a Magistrates' Court to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (currently £5,000), or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both
- On conviction in the Crown Court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine or both.
Regulatory officers, in most cases local trading standard officers, will be responsible for enforcement.
Guidance has been produced by the Local Government Regulatory Support Unit with the Department of Health and in consultation with the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores.
The guidance is available at: businesslink.gov.uk/tobaccodisplay
The legislation is set out in:
The Health Act 2009 also gives powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly in Wales to prohibit the display of tobacco products at point of sale. The Welsh Government has confirmed that it intends to go ahead with a ban(4) and will be publishing Regulations that will come into force from December 2012 in large stores and in all other businesses by April 2015. (5)
In Northern Ireland, the Minister of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has said that he will issue regulations to ban the point of sale display of tobacco products in the latter half of 2012 for large shops and in 2015 for smaller shops.(6)
In Scotland, the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act prohibits the display of tobacco products at point of sale. The ban was due to be implemented in large stores from October 2011 and in small stores from October 2013. However, following a legal challenge implementation of the ban has been delayed. The legal challenge was unsuccessful(7) but has been appealed to the Supreme Court. A revised timetable for implementing the tobacco display ban is expected to be announced in due course.
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Each year thousands of children and young people in the United Kingdom start smoking, with around two-thirds starting before the age of 18.(8) Every year 340,000 children under sixteen try cigarettes for the first time.(9) The younger a person starts smoking the greater the risk of getting lung cancer and other smoking related diseases.(10) Because nicotine is so addictive, only around half of all smokers manage to stop smoking before they die.(11)
Research shows that Point of Sale (PoS) display has a direct impact on young people's smoking. In 2006, almost half (46%) of UK teenagers were aware of tobacco display at PoS and those professing an intention to smoke were more likely to recall brands that they had seen at the point of sale.(12)
A recent longitudinal study in the US found that teenagers who visited convenience stores with tobacco displays were more likely to start smoking,(13) while similar research with 25,000 young people in New Zealand found that children exposed to displays were almost three times more likely to smoke.(14) Research has found that young people believe that displays encourage smoking and are considered “cool, fun and attractive”.(15) Similarly research in Australia(16) and the USA(17) has shown that point of sale display advertising of cigarettes normalises tobacco use for children and creates a perception that tobacco is easily obtainable.
An evaluation of the tobacco display ban in Ireland found that there was an immediate impact on young people's attitudes towards smoking.(18) For example, the proportion of young people believing more than a fifth of youth their age smoked decreased from 62% to 46%. Also, post legislation, 38% of teenagers thought the law would make it easier for children not to smoke.
The main reason for prohibiting the display of tobacco products at the point of sale is to protect children and young people from the promotion of tobacco. Most forms of tobacco advertising are now banned in the UK following the implementation of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act (TAPA) 2002. In December 2004 regulations were put in place limiting tobacco advertising at the point of sale to a single A5 sized poster, with 30% of the area taken up by a health warning.
Children and young people are particularly influenced by tobacco imagery(19),(20) and the effectiveness of tobacco advertising in recruiting children to smoking is the primary reason behind legislation banning point of sale promotion. In the words of Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley "It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets".(21)
Although the TAPA included regulatory authority to ban displays, no regulations were ever introduced. Tobacco companies have exploited this loophole and since 2003 there has been considerable growth in the number and size of tobacco displays in many premises.(22),(23) Examples include the use of clocks and specially-designed towers to highlight specific brands. Other tactics include the use of back-lighting of gantries (shelving) and eye-catching non-standard shelving to make the brands stand out.(24)
As can be seen from these images, the cigarette packs themselves are now the main form of cigarette advertising and the distinction between advertising and display has become blurred. See also related ASH Briefing on Plain Packaging.
The following comments highlight the importance of the pack as a communication tool:
“It is the communication life-blood of the firm... the silent salesman” (25)
“It is a promotional tool in its own right” (26)
“It is a total opportunity for communications... a carefully planned brand or information communications campaign” (27)
One way in which tobacco companies have succeeded in increasing point of sale exposure of their brands is by developing new variants of existing brands. Since 1998 brand families have grown in size by more than 50% with popular brands such as Benson & Hedges increasing brand variants from 4 in 1998 to 23 by 2012. The increase in brand variants is designed to maximise their visual impact on shop shelves.
Tobacco marketing is not primarily targeted at existing regular smokers who are extremely brand loyal. Most smokers (86%) always buy the same brand of tobacco and only 6% say their decision about what brand to buy is made on the basis of the shop display.(28) Tobacco displays do, however, prompt impulse purchases and increase sales by an estimated 12-28%.(29) Young people are particularly likely to make unplanned purchases. Ex-smokers and people who are trying to stop smoking are also vulnerable to these purchases, resulting in relapse.(30) The following images are of a large tobacco promotion at a music festival in Wales which was attended by young people.
Photography by Brendan Cook
There is already majority public support for a ban on the display of tobacco products where they are sold. A 2010 survey by Cancer Research UK - when the legislation had just been passed by Parliament - found 73% support for the removal of point of sale displays.(31)
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(1) Consultation on the future of tobacco control. Department of Health, London, 2008
(2) Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England, Department of Health, March 2011
(3) Guidance on the display and pricing of tobacco products in England, for tobacco retailers and
regulatory officers, Business Link, December 2011 (pdf)
(4) Tobacco Control Delivery Plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2 February 2012 (Word)
(5) Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales, Welsh Assembly Government, December 2011 (pdf)
(6) Northern Ireland Assembly Debate, 17 January 2012
(7) Appeal judges reject Imperial Tobacco'’s cigarette display bid, BBC News, 2 February 2012
(8) Smoking and drinking among adults, 2006. General Household Survey 2006. ONS, 2008
(9) Impact Assessments for the Health Bill. Department of Health, January 2009
(10) Smoking and the Young. Royal College of Physicians, London, 1992
(11) Aveyard P and West R. Managing smoking cessation. BMJ 2007; 335: 37-41
(12) Point of Sale Display of Tobacco Products. The Centre for Tobacco Control Research. University
of Stirling, 2008
(13) Henriksen L, et al. A Longitudinal Study of Exposure to Retail Cigarette Advertising and Smoking Initiation, Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 2 August 2010, pp. 232-238
(14) Paynter J, et al. Point of sale tobacco displays and smoking amongst 14-15 year olds in New Zealand: cross sectional study. Tobacco Control Journal 2009, August 18 (4) 268-274.
(15) Brown A & Moodie C Adolescents' Perceptions of Tobacco Control Measures in the United Kingdom, Health Promotion Practice, 2010, PMID: 20421410
(16) Wakefield M, Germain D, Durkin S and Henriksen L. An experimental study of effects on schoolchildren of exposure to point-of-sale cigarette advertising and pack displays. Health Educ. Res. 2006; 21: 338-34
(17) Henriksen L et al. Effects on youth of exposure to retail advertising. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2002;32:1771-89
(18) McNeill A et al. Evaluation of the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays in Ireland. Tobacco Control (2010). doi:10.1136/tc.2010.038141
(19) Pierce JP, Gilpin E, Burns DM, et al. Does tobacco advertising target young people to start smoking? Evidence from California. JAMA.1991; 266:3154-3158
(20) Lovato, C et al. Cochrane Review: Impact of tobacco advertising and promotion on increasing adolescent smoking behaviours. The Cochrane Library, Issue 2, 2004
(21) Plain packaging for cigarettes, Department of Health Press Release November 22, 2010
(22) Sandford, A. Implementation of the Tobacco Point of Sale Regulations in the United Kingdom. Presentation made at the 13th World Conference on tobacco or Health, July 2006
(23) MacGregor, J. Tobacco Advertising at the Point of Sale. The Trading Standards Experience. MacGregor Consulting Ltd., July 2006 (via ASH website)
(24) Beyond Smoking Kills. Action on Smoking and Health, London, 2008
(25) Underwood R L, Ozanne J. Is your package an effective communicator? A normative framework for increasing the communicative competence of packaging (pdf). J Market Commun 1998: 4: 207-20
(26) Palmer A. The product. Principles of Marketing. Oxford University Press 2000
(27) Mawditt N. Putting pack opportunities into the frame. World Tobacco 2006: 212: 36-7
(28) Cancer Research UK. BMRB Omnibus survey: smokers' attitudes to branding and point of sale displays. Cancer Research UK, 2008.
(29) Feighery EC et al. Cigarette advertising and promotional strategies in retail outlets: results of a statewide survey in California. Tobacco Control 2001; 10(2): 184-188
(30) Wakefield M. The effect of retail cigarette pack displays on impulse purchase. Addiction. Nov 2007
(31) Cancer Research UK, Press Release: Huge public support to remove cigarette vending machines and tobacco displays in shops, 25 July 2010.