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

Tob Control. 2014 Jul;23(4):339-44. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050740. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


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, 18954 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.

Keywords: Advertising and Promotion; Packaging and Labelling; Surveillance and monitoring.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / methods*
  • Australia
  • Commerce*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marketing
  • Product Packaging / methods*
  • Restaurants*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data