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Article | Observational study of the visibility of branded tobacco packaging and smoking at outdoor bars/cafés in Wellington, New Zealand

Summary

This study aimed to collect data on tobacco brand visibility on packaging on outdoor tables at bars/cafés prior to New Zealand’s proposed plain packaging law. Observational data were systematically collected at 55 bars/cafés with outdoor tables (in Central Wellington City). A total of 19,189 patrons, 1707 tobacco packs and 1357 active smokers were observed. One tobacco pack was visible per 11.0 patrons and the active smoking prevalence was 7.1%, similar to Australian results (8.3%). Eighty percent of packs were positioned face-up (showing the brand), 8% face-down (showing the large pictorial warning), and 12% in other positions. Pack visibility per patron was significantly greater in areas without child patrons (RR=3.1, p<0.0001). In summary, tobacco branding on tobacco packaging was frequently visible because of the way smokers position their packs. These results highlight the residual problem posed by this form of marketing. The results also provide baseline data for the future evaluation of plain packaging if a proposed law is implemented in New Zealand.

Abstract

Aim

To collect data on tobacco brand visibility on packaging on outdoor tables at bars/cafés in a downtown area, prior to a proposed plain packaging law.

Method

The study was conducted in the Central Business District of Wellington City in March 2014. Observational data were systematically collected on tobacco packaging visibility and smoking by patrons at 55 bars/cafés with outdoor tables.

Results

A total of 19,189 patrons, 1707 tobacco packs and 1357 active smokers were observed. One tobacco pack was visible per 11.0 patrons and the active smoking prevalence was 7.1% (95%CI: 4.9–9.2%), similar to Australian results (8.3%). Eighty percent of packs were positioned face-up (showing the brand), 8% face-down (showing the large pictorial warning), and 12% in other positions. Pack visibility per patron was significantly greater in areas without child patrons (RR=3.1, p<0.0001). Both smoking and pack visibility tended to increase from noon into the evenings on weekends. Inter-observer reliability for key measures in this study was high (Bland-Altman plots).

Conclusion

Tobacco branding on packaging was frequently visible because of the way smokers position their packs. These results highlight the residual problem posed by this form of marketing. The results also provide baseline data for the future evaluation of plain packaging if a proposed law is implemented in New Zealand. Other results warrant further research, particularly the reasons for lower pack visibility and smoking when children were present.

Citation

Martin N, McHugh H, Murtagh J, Oliver-Rose C, Panesar D, Pengelly H, Rieper S, Schofield H, Singh V, Speed A, Strachan R, Tapsell T, Trafford S, van Ryn S, Ward E, Whiting R, Wilson-van Duin M, Wu Z, Purdie G, van der Deen FS, Thomson G, Pearson AL, Wilson N. Observational study of the visibility of branded tobacco packaging and smoking at outdoor bars/cafés. N Z Med J 2014;127(1404):27-36.

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For more information, please contact:
Nick Wilson
University of Otago, Wellington
email: nick.wilson@otago.ac.nz