Tobacco price boards as a promotional strategy—a longitudinal observational study in Australian retailers

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BackgroundPrice boards in tobacco retailers are one of the few forms of tobacco promotion remaining in Australia. This study aimed to examine how these boards were used to promote products over a period of rapidly rising taxes.MethodsObservations were made in a panel of 350 stores in Melbourne, Australia, in November of 2013 (just before) and in 2014 and 2015 (after 12.5% increases in tobacco duty). Fieldworkers unobtrusively noted the presence and characteristics of price boards, and the brand name, size and price of the product at the top of each board.ResultsPrice boards were common in all store types apart from newsagent/lottery agents. The characteristics of the top-listed product changed notably over time: premium brands accounted for 66% of top-listed products in 2013, significantly declining to 43% in 2015, while packs of 20 cigarettes increased in prominence from 32% to 45%. The prevalence of packs of 20 cigarettes in budget market segments tripled from 2013 (13%) and 2014 (11%) to 32% in 2015, with no change in the proportion of packs that were under $A20 from 2014 (37%) to 2015 (36%). The rate of increase in the average price of the top-listed pack correspondingly flattened from 2014 to 2015 compared with 2013–2014.ConclusionsPrice boards promote tobacco products in ways that undermine the effectiveness of tax policy as a means of discouraging consumption. Communication to consumers about prices should be restricted to information sheets provided to adult smokers on request at the point of sale.

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