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Investigating young people's exposure to tobacco products following display ban in shops in Scotland


Young people in Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods are increasingly likely to encounter tobacco products in their area, a study funded by the NIHR suggests.

A law introduced in 2013 has reduced exposure to cigarettes and related products among adolescents, but inequalities in availability and visibility have increased, researchers say.

The ban reduced the visibility of tobacco products in shops across the country, however the density of retailers in Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods has risen in recent years.

Teenagers in deprived neighbourhoods are now even more likely to encounter tobacco products than their peers in more affluent parts of the country compared with before the ban.

The findings, published in the journal Tobacco Control, follow previous research showing that Scotland’s most deprived areas contain the highest density of tobacco retailers, and that people are more likely to smoke where local availability is high.

The latest study involved researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Stirling and St Andrews examined the effect of the ban on in-store displays of tobacco products in Scotland – called point-of-sale legislation. This came into force in large supermarkets in April 2013 and in smaller shops two years later.

Scientists studied retailer density by analysing data on all of the premises licensed to sell tobacco between 2013 and 2017. They also studied changes in product visibility over the same period.

The density of tobacco retailers fell initially in all areas following the ban, however since 2015 it has increased steadily in Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods, the team says.

Researchers also conducted a survey of more than 5,000 adolescents in four areas to gauge their exposure to tobacco products. They found that young people in the poorest areas were the most likely to encounter tobacco products in nearby shops or on their journey to school.

The study, also involved ScotCen Social Research, and was carried out as part of the Determining the impact of smoking point of sale legislation among youth (DISPLAY) study, funded by the NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme (PHR).

More information on the study is available on the NIHR Journals Library.