To examine the potential impact of banning tobacco displays and ads at the point of sale (POS) on youth outcomes.
An interactive virtual convenience store was created with scenarios in which the tobacco product display at the POS was either openly visible (status quo) or enclosed behind a cabinet (display ban), and tobacco ads in the store were either present or absent. A national convenience sample of 1216 youth aged 13 to 17 who were either smokers or nonsmokers susceptible to smoking participated in the study. Youth were randomized to 1 of 6 virtual store conditions and given a shopping task to complete in the virtual store. During the shopping task, we tracked youth’s attempts to purchase tobacco products. Subsequently, youth completed a survey that assessed their perceptions about the virtual store and perceptions about the ease of buying cigarettes from the virtual store.
Compared with youth in the status quo condition, youth in the display ban condition were less aware that tobacco products were for sale (32.0% vs 85.2%) and significantly less likely to try purchasing tobacco products in the virtual store (odds ratio = 0.30, 95% confidence interval = 0.13−0.67, P < .001). Banning ads had minimal impact on youth’s purchase attempts.
Policies that ban tobacco product displays at the POS may help reduce youth smoking by deterring youth from purchasing tobacco products at retail stores.