The silent salesman: an observational study of personal tobacco pack display at outdoor café strips in Australia

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Abstract

Objective

We sought to determine the relative frequency and nature of personal display of cigarette packs by smokers in two Australian cities where 30% front-of-pack and 90% back-of-pack health warnings have been used since 2006 and comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions apply.

Methods

An observational study counted patrons, active smokers and tobacco packs at cafés, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. Pack orientation and use of cigarette cases were also noted.

Results

Overall, 18 954 patrons, 1576 active smokers and 2153 packs were observed, meaning that one out of every 12.0 patrons was actively smoking, and one of every 8.8 patrons displayed a pack. Packs were more frequently observed in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods, reflecting the higher prevalence of smoking in those regions. Packs were displayed less often in venues where children were present, suggesting a greater tendency not to smoke around children. Most packs (81.4%) were oriented face-up, permitting prominent brand display. Only 1.5% of observed packs were cigarette cases, and 4.2% of packs were concealed by another item, such as a phone or wallet.

Conclusions

Tobacco packs are frequently seen on table-tops in café strips, providing many opportunities for other patrons and passers-by to be incidentally exposed to cigarette brand names and imagery. Use of cigarette cases is rare, suggesting that smokers eventually habituate to pictorial warnings on branded packs and/or find repeated decanting of each newly purchased branded pack into a case to be inconvenient.

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