Background: Since the implementation of the 2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, point-of-sale (PoS) tobacco displays are one of few remaining means of communication between the tobacco industry and customers in the UK. This study aimed to explore the characteristics of tobacco displays in a UK city, and particularly to assess the tobacco prices and promotional offers, types and pack sizes on display.
Methods: Digital pictures of PoS displays were taken in 117 small retail shops in Nottingham in mid 2010. Data were analysed using Windows Photo Gallery software and SPSS version 16.
Results: Just over half (52%) of cigarette packs on display were packs of 20, and 43% packs of 10. Cigarette prices differed substantially between brands, ranging from £4.19 to £6.85 for 20-packs, and from £2.12 to £3.59 for 10-packs. Forty four percent of cigarette packs and 40% of RYO (Roll-Your-Own) tobacco pouches, almost exclusively lower priced brands, were displayed with a pricemark, implying a promotional price offer. Eighty percent of 20-pack cigarette brand or brand variants on sale were priced below the EU-defined Most Popular Price Category (MPPC) for the UK in 2010; 45% were priced below the Weighted Average Price (WAP), which replaced the MPPC in 2011.
Conclusion: PoS displays communicate value by displaying a high proportion of lower cost brands, and smaller and hence lower-cost packs, and by displaying price discounts on packs. The MPPC substantially overestimated the prices at which most 20-cigarette packs were available. Removal of PoS displays will prevent this means of price marketing but our study also suggests that minimum pricing of 20-pack cigarettes, prohibition of sale of cigarettes in packs less than 20, and plain packaging to prevent pricemarking are necessary if price is to be used effectively as a tobacco control measure.