Non-smoking students are more inclined to be susceptible to smoking if there is a cluster of retail outlets selling tobacco near their school, prompting Quit Victoria to call for measures to limit cigarette availability.
A study of more than 27,000 year 10 students, published in the journal Tobacco Control, examined the relationship between smoking habits and the number of tobacco outlets concentrated around schools.
The New Zealand study found that non-smoking students were more likely to be susceptible to becoming addicted to cigarettes if there was a high density of tobacco outlets around their school, compared to students at schools where there were fewer outlets.
In addition, teens already hooked on cigarettes were significantly more likely to attempt to purchase their own tobacco if there was a high density of tobacco outlets around their school.
Quit Victoria Manager of Tobacco Control Policy, Kylie Lindorff said the findings suggested that a concentration of tobacco outlets near schools may make smoking seem like “normal” behaviour to teenagers, and provide a trigger for them to purchase tobacco.
“Unfortunately, despite widespread bans on tobacco advertising, retail outlets remain a major form of promotion to teenagers,’’ Ms Lindorff said.
“In Victoria, unlike most other states in Australia, retailers do not even require a license to sell tobacco. This sends a weak message about their obligations including not to sell cigarettes to minors.
“Quit Victoria wants to see the state government introduce a licensing scheme for retailers as a priority – and it is a measure that has huge public support. With tobacco sold in more than 8000 retail outlets in Victoria, we also need to get serious about reducing the availability of a product that kills two out of three long-term users.”
Victoria and Queensland are the only states in Australia that do not have a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers.
Research released today by Cancer Council Victoria’s Behavioural Sciences Division shows widespread support for a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers in Victoria. According to the survey, 82 per cent of Victorian adults supported or strongly supported such a scheme.
Ms Lindorff said smoking trends among teenagers were headed in the right direction, but it was important to continue the downward pressure.
“It’s great to see teen smoking rates declining over time but too many teenagers are still getting their hands on cigarettes, despite bans on sales to minors.
“Cigarettes are far too available, and their widespread promotion at point of sale is encouraging experimentation.
“A licensing scheme for tobacco retailers, and measures to reduce the availability of cigarettes, are logical next steps towards a future free of tobacco-related death and disease.”
For help to quit smoking, contact Quitline on 13 7848 or go to www.quit.org.au
Marsh L, Ajmal A, McGee R, et al, Tobacco retail outlet density and risk of youth smoking in New Zealand, Tobacco Control