Introduction: Tobacco promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start smoking. Much of the tobacco industry's promotional budget is spent on point of sale (PoS) promotion in many jurisdictions. Consequently, tobacco is an eye-catching feature at the PoS in many places.
Methods: We reviewed the evidence that PoS tobacco promotion influences key smoking-related behaviors and beliefs, increases susceptibility to smoking in youth, undermines smokers' quit attempts, and promotes relapse among ex-smokers.
Results: We found 12 peer-reviewed studies, 10 of which were focused on children. Seven of 8 observational studies found statistically significant associations between exposure to tobacco promotion at the PoS and smoking initiation or susceptibility to smoking. Two experimental studies of children found statistically significant associations between exposure to PoS tobacco promotions and beliefs about ease of getting tobacco and smoking prevalence among their peers. An experimental study with adults found that a picture of collected tobacco pack elicited cravings for cigarettes among smokers. A cross-sectional study found that 25% of adult smokers reported impulse purchasing and a third of recent ex-smokers reported urges to start smoking after seeing tobacco displayed.
Discussion: More prospective studies are needed to clarify the temporal relationship between exposure to PoS tobacco and outcome. However, given the addictiveness of tobacco, the severity of the health hazards posed by smoking, the evidence that tobacco promotion encourages children to start smoking, and the consistency of the evidence that PoS promotion influences children's smoking, we believe that ample justification exists for banning PoS advertising and displays of smoked tobacco products.