Ireland - people responding well to the ban on cigarette displays..

October 12, 2009 - Putting tobacco out of sight in shops has boosted support for a display ban in the Republic of Ireland - reveals new research.

Data from Ireland are being presented to MPs as similar measures will be put to the vote in the House of Commons on Monday (October 12).

Cancer Research UK, the Office of Tobacco Control and the Irish Cancer Society have been funding an ongoing survey* to examine how people are responding to the display ban. Around 1000 people aged 15 and over are surveyed every month. Support grew from 56 percent backing the ban in April to 68 percent by September. 180 13-15 year olds were also interviewed in June and again in August. Before the ban 81 percent could recall seeing any cigarette or tobacco packs in shops in the last month. After the ban this dropped to less than a quarter.

A third of the teenagers also thought they or their friends could successfully buy cigarettes in June. After the ban only a quarter thought they would be able to get away with it.

Protecting young people from tobacco marketing is the main goal of the proposed legislation.

Support for the ban in Ireland mirrors the overwhelming public support for similar measures in the United Kingdom (UK). A Cancer Research UK survey** carried out by YouGov in June shows that 70 per cent of adults in the UK back proposals to protect children from tobacco by putting it out of sight in shops and 76 per cent support abolishing cigarette vending machines. The survey questioned more than 2000 people from across the UK and also shows that nearly 80 per cent of people now support the smoking ban in the UK’s pubs, clubs and enclosed public places.

Professor Ann McNeill, based at the University of Nottingham who lead the research, said: "These results from Ireland indicate that banning the display of cigarettes is a popular measure, with support growing after the ban had been implemented. This is very encouraging news for the UK where we could expect to see a similar trend. I believe that adults are aware of the enormous risks of smoking and are keen to protect children from any exposure to tobacco promotion."

Elspeth Lee, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco control, said: "We may not see tobacco advertised in the traditional places like magazines, billboards or on TV, but it still exists. The large displays of the brightly coloured packs, fancy wrappings and slick designs are all to make an impact and build a relationship with potential new young smokers. This is why it’s so encouraging that in such a short period fewer Irish teenagers can recall seeing tobacco on display.

"Over 80 percent of smokers start before the age of 19 and half of all long-term smokers will die from cancer or other smoking-related diseases - that's why we want to make smoking history for our children. With so much support, and the new evidence that this support will grow, we urge Parliament to listen and put tobacco out of sight."

Mr √Čamonn Rossi, chief executive of the OTC, welcomed the findings and highlighted the significance of the newly introduced measures in protecting young people, in particular. "Research clearly shows that tobacco advertising influences young people. While other outlets for tobacco advertising have long since been removed, in store advertising and extensive product displays helped tobacco to appear as a familiar, acceptable and normal retail product. This situation contributes to the perception common among youth that ‘everyone’ smokes. As a result, research shows that children are more likely to start smoking themselves."

Reference: Irish tobacco display ban provides encouraging results for the UK, Cancer Research UK, 10/12/2009.

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