The Adirondack Tobacco Free Network, a grass-roots coalition focusing on reducing the number of adult and adolescent tobacco users in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, recently released statistics from a Summer Community Survey that addressed several tobacco issues.
“This is a tobacco survey that’s conducted every year by the Siena Research Institute,” said Jill Rock, spokesperson for the Tobacco Free Network. “This year, we asked a ton of new questions on point-of-sale tobacco marketing to youth in area stores.”
Tobacco-cessation supporters are concerned about promotional displays at the point of sale, such as a checkout counter in a community grocery store. They feel that “power walls,” the brightly colored displays in stores dedicated to tobacco products, are being directed toward younger students.
“Tobacco companies pay to have the best spots,” Rock said. “You’ll see the top-selling companies displayed in the most prominent location, and they’ll use color and other imagery that is especially attractive to youth.
“The questions we asked this year were based around that. We received some really good feedback.”
The survey was distributed to 350 people in each of the three regional counties, with half going to males and half to females. Age ranges were from 18 to 29, 30 to 44, 45 to 59 and 60 and above.
BAN NEAR SCHOOLS
Of those surveyed, 59 percent of the respondents in Clinton County supported a ban on tobacco sales in stores located near schools; 49 percent of the respondents in Essex County and 58 percent in Franklin County also backed a ban.
Students involved in Reality Check, a community-based group of younger people who promote smoking-cessation activities, agree with those results.
“The tobacco industry is taking over the convenience stores in our communities with their cigarette ads and power walls,” Gabby Parrotte, a sophomore from Plattsburgh High School and member of Reality Check, said in a press release from the Clinton County Health Department.
“I am tired of being the target of a product that, if used as intended, kills 1 out of 3 of its users. It is time to take action against the tobacco industries and make a change in the way they advertise to kids in our community.”
Residents from both Clinton and Franklin counties supported an idea to restricted visibility of tobacco products by 55 percent, according to survey statistics. In Essex County, 52 percent agreed.
“Youth smoking rates have dropped, but they are leveling off now,” Rock said. “The community sees that this is still a problem and wants to find ways to protect our children.”
With restrictions on advertising in other mediums, such as television and magazines, the retail market is the only major remaining option for tobacco companies, so they spend a great deal of advertising money on point-of-sale displays.
NO TOBACCO SALES
The survey, which was conducted in 17 counties across the state, shows that a majority of residents support three main strategies being considered by the Tobacco Control Program: display regulations, licensing restrictions and prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies.
“They don’t want to hurt stores selling now, but they may choose not to allow any more stores to sell tobacco products,” Rock said.
Overall, residents in all three counties believe teen smoking is a problem in their communities, including 69 percent of those surveyed in Clinton and Essex counties and 76 percent in Franklin County.
“The results are indisputable,” Rock said. “Tri-county residents no longer want to be bombarded with tobacco imagery and would rather remove products completely out of sight where they shop.”
All provinces in Canada require tobacco products to be hidden in drawers or cabinets, and Rock believes that policy would represent a move in the right direction toward reducing youth smoking even more.