E-poster Presentation 2014 World Cancer Congress

Citizen science: Cancer Council volunteers auditing tobacco retail outlets (#795)

Kelly Williams 1 , Anita Tang 1 , Rae Fry 1 , Scott Walsberger 1
  1. Cancer Council NSW, Woolloomooloo, NSW, Australia

Background and Context:

The NSW Tobacco Retailer Notification Scheme (the Scheme) is intended to assist in monitoring and enforcement of tobacco retail legislation. The Scheme requires retailers to notify the government before selling tobacco.


We conducted a field audit of tobacco retailers to assess the accuracy of the Scheme’s records and retailers’ compliance with the legislation. We relied on volunteer auditors, as a way of engaging supporters as well as providing a cost effective way to conduct a large-scale audit.  


The field audit assessed the effectiveness of the Scheme by investigating if there were retailers selling tobacco without notifying, assessing compliance with existing tobacco retail regulations, measuring price variations on cigarettes.

A distinctive feature of the study was the use of auditors drawn largely from existing Cancer Council supporters and volunteers. In addition to being cost effective, this strategy provided us with greater geographic reach and gave community members a practical way to contribute to tobacco control.

Programme/Policy Process:

 We recruited 180 volunteer auditors from organisational channels – community advocates, program volunteers, fundraising supporters, staff from other teams, and university partnerships.

We provided volunteers with briefing sessions, and a data collection kit. Project staff maintained contact with the data collectors for follow-up, trouble-shooting, and appreciation purposes.

All data collectors were offered a briefing on the results of the study before publication.

Outcomes/What was learned: Volunteers collected observational data from 1,565 listed tobacco retail outlets from 100 randomly selected postcodes. Volunteers also identified 174 unlisted retailers by searching randomly selected postcodes and their home postcodes.

Our post-study survey of data collectors indicated high level of satisfaction, increased understanding of tobacco retail issues, a strong sense of having contributed to cancer control, and strong desire to continue supporting Cancer Council and encourage others to do so.