Background: Tobacco advertising and product promotions have been largely banned in the UK but point of sale (POS) tobacco advertising is one of the few places where tobacco products may be legitimately advertised. POS displays have been shown to increase susceptibility to smoking, experimentation and initiation into smoking. These displays may also influence perceived prevalence of smoking and the perception that tobacco products are easily obtained and are a 'normal' product. A ban of POS tobacco advertising was introduced in Scotland in large tobacco retail outlets of over 280 m2 internal sales floor areas (mainly supermarkets) in April 2013 and will be extended to include smaller tobacco retail outlets in April 2015. However, the impact of POS bans on smoking attitudes, behaviours and prevalence has yet to be determined.
Methods/design: This study has a multi-modal before and after design and uses mixed methods to collect data, at baseline and then with longitudinal follow-up for 4 years, in four purposively selected communities. For the purposes of the study, community is defined as the catchment areas of the secondary schools selected for study. There are four main components to the on-going study. In each of the four communities, at baseline and in follow-up years, there will be: mapping and spatial analyses of tobacco retail outlets; tobacco advertising and marketing audits of tobacco retail outlets most used by young people; cross-sectional school surveys of secondary school pupils; and focus group interviews with purposive samples of secondary school pupils. The tobacco audit is supplemented by interviews and observations conducted with a panel of tobacco retailers recruited from four matched communities.
Discussion: This study examines the impact of the implementation of both a partial and comprehensive ban on point of sale (POS) tobacco advertising on attitudes to smoking, brand awareness, perceived ease of access to tobacco products and youth smoking prevalence. The results will be of considerable interest to policy makers both from the UK and other jurisdictions where they are considering the development and implementation of similar legislation.