New York - Teens may be less likely to buy cigarettes at convenience stores if they are not sold in plain sight behind the counter, according to a US study.

“We know the retail environment is a very important place for tobacco companies to advertise and market their products,” said lead author Annice Kim, of the independent research institute RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

“They’re prominently displayed at the point of sale, and it exposes all customers,”

The researchers designed a virtual reality game and sent more than 1 200 youth, between the age 13 and 17, into a simulated online convenience shop.

In some scenarios, the cabinet behind the counter prominently displayed cigarettes, while other teens saw the cabinet closed and the display covered up. Any teens that tried to ask the cashier for cigarettes were denied because of age.

The researchers found that 16 to 24 percent of teens tried to buy tobacco products when the display was open, compared to 9 to 11 percent when it was closed.

However, 32 percent of youth said they were aware cigarettes were available for sale when the display case was closed, compared to 85 percent of those who had the open version. – Reuters