12:33pm

Fri December 7, 2012
Health and Welfare

Hiding Tobacco Displays Could Curb Teen Smoking

For Kentucky which has the dubious distinction of having the nation's highest rate of teen smokers, an study published this week in Pediatrics reports that teenagers may be less likely to buy cigarettes at convenience stores if they aren't sold in plain sight. Genevra Pittman of Reuters Health explains that requiring stores to hide tobacco product displays is one option some states are considering to curb teen smoking after the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was passed, according to Annice Kim, the study's lead author. No state has yet banned the displays. (Associated Press photo)

The study was conducted using a virtual reality game where teens, ages 13 to 17, "visited" simulated stores to purchase items. In some cases, the cigarettes were displayed behind the counter; in others, they were covered up. The researchers from RTI International found that 16 to 24 percent of teens tried to buy tobacco when the display was open, compared to 9 to 11 percent when it was closed. Thirty-two percent said they were aware cigarettes were available when the display case was closed , compared to 85 percent of those who had the open version.

Dr. Michael Siegel, of the Boston University School of Public Health, told Pittman that the study was interesting but he was skeptical of extrapolating it into real life. Real life kids, he said, will go to a store when they want to buy cigarettes. "I don't know how many situations there are when a kid is hanging out in a convenience store with nothing to do and says, 'Oh, I'll just try a cigarette as long as they're here.' "(Read more)