Seeing glossy shop displays of cigarette packets undermines people's attempts to quit smoking, according to research completed for groups seeking to have the "advertising" banned.
The Massey University study confirms overseas findings on the effects of the "powerwall" of tobacco displays in dairies, some supermarkets and service stations.
The Government is seeking submissions on whether to tighten restrictions on retail tobacco displays, including possibly banning them altogether.
In the Massey study, led by marketing specialist Professor Janet Hoek, in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 people who had attempted to quit smoking in the preceding six to eight months, including some who had resumed smoking.
Professor Hoek said the displays were a form of advertising and ought to be banned to bring tobacco retailing into line with the prohibition of other tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
Participants in the study were tempted by seeing retail displays, she said. "Some said seeing displays would trigger them to purchase. Many commented on recognising their brand within the display and feeling that somehow they were missing out on something. One person talked quite a lot about the emptiness of having to forgo that experience [of smoking].
"It was quite clear from what many people said that not having displays would create an environment that made quitting easier."
A strong theme of the participants' views was that prohibiting retail displays of tobacco would protect young people, Professor Hoek said.
Further details of the study and another, by the Wellington School of Medicine on retailers' views, will be made public today. Both studies were commissioned by the Cancer Society and ASH (Action on Smoking and Health).
The society's tobacco control policy adviser, Belinda Hughes, said it was widely believed in the tobacco-control sector that the displays undermined attempts to stop smoking. Participants in the research had expressed particular concern that the displays "attract young people to develop a smoking addiction".
ASH says there is international evidence that retail tobacco displays and other forms of retail marketing increase susceptibility to smoking, the commencement of smoking by children, and the establishment in children's minds of smoking as a "normal" behaviour.
Australian research published last year found that 40 per cent of smokers who were trying to stop or reduce smoking were tempted to buy a pack when they saw a retail display.
Nearly a third of smokers in the study agreed that removing the displays would help them to quit.By Martin Johnston Email Martin