A ban on displaying cigarettes and tobacco at shop counters has reduced the risk of young people taking up smoking, according to a new study. Tobacco products have been hidden from point-of-sale displays across the UK for more than four years.
University of Stirling researchers said their study showed the ban "helps safeguard young people".
Displays of tobacco products at shop counters were first banned in larger stores in England in April 2012. Ministers said that by removing cigarettes from view, it would help curb the number of young people taking up smoking.
Similar laws came into effect in Wales and Northern Ireland later that year, and in Scotland in April 2013.
A full ban, which also affected small shops, came into force across the UK in April 2015.
The law stipulates tobacco products must be completely covered from view. It does not say how units should be covered, but most retailers using sliding doors or hanging covers.
The latest research from the University of Stirling examined the impact of the policy on 11-16-year-olds who had never smoked.
Among their findings, they discovered that:
- the "smoking susceptibility" of children who had never smoked decreased from 28% pre-ban to 18% post-ban
- a total of 81% of those interviewed noticed cigarettes at point-of-sale before the law came into force, compared to 28% afterwards
- the average number of cigarette brands recalled by the children declined from 0.97 to 0.69
- after the ban was fully implemented, 90% of those who have never smoked supported the display ban
- it made cigarettes seem unappealing, according to 77% of those interviewed
- and 87% said it made smoking seem unacceptable
The research, which has been published in the British Medical Journal's Tobacco Control, was funded by Cancer Research UK.
Its tobacco control manager, Kruti Shrotri, said the findings proved the laws had made a difference to public health.
She said: "Glitzy displays and glamorous packaging helped the tobacco industry to lure the next generation of smokers into taking up a deadly addiction. But contrary to Big Tobacco's belief that banning displays would make no difference this study shows that by putting cigarettes out of sight and out of mind far fewer youngsters are taking up the deathly habit."