Capital Region Kids in the Crosshairs
New Survey Shows Youth Bombarded with Tobacco Ads in Area Stores
(Loudonville, NY) – Tobacco companies call them “replacement smokers.” You call them your children. Either way, area kids are being targeted by cigarette makers with a massive amount of advertising in local stores according to a survey released today.
The report, issued the day before the annual Great American Smokeout was compiled by the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition, Rural Three for Tobacco Free Communities, the Southern Adirondack Tobacco-Free Coalition, Rip Van Winkle Tobacco-Free Action of Columbia and Greene Counties, Project Action, Reality Check and the American Cancer Society.
Stores were randomly selected from a list of retailers licensed to sell tobacco in the Capital Region and the surrounding area. More than 100 stores were observed during the month of October. Key findings of the observational survey, released today as part of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout®, include:
· 89% of stores featured tobacco product displays behind the cash register.
Research in the U.S. and abroad suggests that exposure to in-store tobacco promotions is a primary cause of youth smoking. Nearly 90 percent of regular smokers start smoking before the age of 18. Very few begin after high school.
"In New York we have a strong Tobacco Control Program working to protect our children from the predatory marketing practices of the tobacco industry," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "But we are up against an industry that in 2006 spent $12.5 billion nationally on marketing -- more than the amount spent to market junk food, soda and alcohol combined. Ninety percent of that marketing -- $11 billion -- goes to the retail environment for tobacco advertising, product placement, incentives to retailers, price discounts and other in-store promotions. I urge retail stores to follow the good example of major grocery store chains like Price Chopper that have removed tobacco product displays from public view."
In-store promotions are a major cause of youth smoking. A National Cancer Institute study concluded that exposure to cigarette advertising causes nonsmoking adolescents to initiate smoking and to move toward becoming regular smokers. Another study found young people are more likely to be influenced by cigarette advertising than by peer or parental smoking. A 2008 analysis found a direct relationship between increased teen smoking and the density of tobacco retailers around schools, while a paper published earlier this year found a direct relationship between the frequency that a kid visited stores containing tobacco advertising and his or her risk of becoming a smoker.
“It's terrible. We’ve been able to limit tobacco company advertising in mass media, but they’ve adapted and are taking full advantage of one of the remaining venues to lure kids into smoking,” said Dr. Maureen Killackey, American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer. “By plastering stores with highly-lit displays and bright ads placed at kid level, they continue to TARGET our kids as their next generation of customers.”
As a result of the recent Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FDA law) and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), retail stores are one of the last places where tobacco companies can expose kids to their advertising. Consequently, tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year marketing their deadly products at the point of sale. This is done by controlling dominant display space in retail stores and through in-store advertising. Both are typically found around the cash register, sometimes referred to within the industry as the “goal post” because it is the one place in the store where everyone must go. Tobacco companies invest a lot at these locations in creating so-called “power walls,” large, visually appealing displays of products intended to attract the interest of customers.
The groups are using the Great American Smokeout® to raise awareness about the issue of the strong tobacco company presence in our stores and to encourage community members to take action to limit youth exposure to this dangerous and deadly influence.
“This Great American Smokeout we call upon the public to look around the stores you shop,” said Janine Stuchin, Project Director with the Southern Adirondack Tobacco Free Coalition, “really look around, if you are a non-smoking adult, and over 80% of us are, you likely do not even notice the extensive amount of advertising going on around you. But it is there. And youth do notice.“
Smokers who want to quit should log onto a new web site - iwillquit.org - created just for the Great American Smokeout®. The focus of the web site is on living a healthy, active life. Visitors are asked to share their reason for quitting and are provided with resources and tips to help make their attempt a success.