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



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


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/cafes with outdoor tables.


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).


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.

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