Aims: To investigate arguments for and against a ban on tobacco displays in New Zealand shops.
Methods: Analysis of evidence from international experience and research studies, for the arguments used to oppose and support display bans; and 27 qualitative interviews with New Zealand ex-smokers, smokers, and retailers.
Results: The main arguments used to oppose display bans identified were: (1) Fears of financial losses for retailers, particularly for small stores; (2) Claims that tobacco is a 'normal' product; (3) 'Lack of evidence' about effectiveness of display bans; and (4) Fears of increased theft and risks to staff. The counter-arguments include: (1) The lack of evidence of significant short term adverse economic effects on retailers (including small stores) where display bans have been implemented; (2) Tobacco is a highly abnormal and hazardous retail product; (3) Evidence that tobacco displays influence initiation of smoking among children, increase impulse purchases, and are crucial to tobacco companies' marketing strategies; (4) Lack of evidence that display bans increase thefts and risks to staff. The qualitative interviews supported the counter arguments. Smokers and ex-smokers interviewed indicated that tobacco displays tempt smokers trying to quit. There was widespread support for a display ban among interviewees (including some retailers) mainly because it might reduce smoking uptake among children.
Conclusions: Arguments for tobacco displays are contradictory, flawed, and unsupported by local and international research evidence, and by the overseas experience of tobacco-free display policies.