Influence of point-of-sale tobacco displays and plain black and white cigarette packaging and advertisements on adults: Evidence from a virtual store experimental study

Addict Behav. 2016 May:56:15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.01.001. Epub 2016 Jan 7.


Introduction: We examined the potential impact of banning tobacco displays and mandating plain packaging and cigarette advertisements at the point of sale (POS) on adult outcomes.

Methods: A virtual convenience store was created with scenarios in which the tobacco product display was either fully visible (status quo) or enclosed behind a cabinet (display ban), and cigarette packs and advertisements were either in full color (status quo) or black and white, text only (plain). A national convenience sample of 1313 adult current smokers and recent quitters was randomized to 1 of 4 conditions and given a shopping task to complete in the virtual store. Main outcomes were participants' self-reported urge to smoke and tobacco purchase attempts in the virtual store.

Results: Compared with recent quitters in the status quo conditions, recent quitters in the display ban condition had lower urges to smoke (β=-4.82, 95% CI=-8.16--1.49, p<0.01). Compared with current smokers in the status quo conditions, smokers in the display ban conditions were less likely to attempt to purchase cigarettes in the virtual store (OR=0.05, 95% CI=0.03-0.08, P<0.01). Smokers exposed to plain packs and ads were significantly less likely to attempt to purchase cigarettes (OR=0.31, 95% CI=0.20-0.47, P<0.01) than those exposed to color packs and ads.

Conclusions: Policies that ban the display of tobacco products or require plain packaging and advertising at the POS may help reduce adult smoking.

Keywords: Plain cigarette packaging; Point-of-sale tobacco product displays; Virtual convenience store.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Commerce
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Packaging*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Young Adult