IMPERIAL COUNTY, CA- Results from a newly-released statewide survey shows that youth throughout the state are exposed to tobacco products on a regular basis. Data from a groundbreaking survey, funded by Proposition 99, Tobacco Tax initiative, show that tobacco products are often sold next to candies at check-out counters, in stores located within 1,000 feet of schools and routinely marketed in colorful packaging and flavors, like bubble gum and grape, that appeal to youth.
These findings come from a statewide survey that collected information from more than 7,300 diverse retail stores – including convenience, supermarket, liquor, tobacco, small market, discount, drug and big-box stores – in all 58 counties in California. The survey examined the availability and marketing of tobacco, alcohol and food products in stores that sell tobaccothe first time all three categories of products have been analyzed together. In Imperial County, a total of 115 stores where surveyed.
The goal of the survey is to guide education efforts and provide an opportunity for communities to work together to promote healthy options for youth, families, and retailers in the community.
“We have made a lot of strides in recent years but, as the survey results show, tobacco products are continuing to be advertised to attract our youth – like flavored cigars which are the same price as a pack of gum. These tobacco products are being marketed throughout the State, many times in stores just a few blocks from schools,” said Dr. Stephen Munday, County Health Officer. “We are committed to working with stores, families and partners throughout Imperial County to make our community healthier.”
“As adults we’re desensitized to the unhealthy advertising and products in stores,” said Daniel Torrez, Chronic Disease Supervisor for the Imperial County Public Health Department.”But we need to consider the number of unhealthy messages our children are exposed to everyday. Research shows that kids are
highly influenced by marketing of products like tobacco and alcohol, even more so than peer pressure. Even if they don’t enter a business, they can be exposed to the ads on the storefronts and windows.”
The findings also show that electronic cigarettes are widely available in Imperial County. Indeed more than 53% of stores sell e-cigarettes. Statewide, the number of stores selling e-cigarettes quadrupled in the last two years, from 11.5% in 2011 to 45.7% in 2013. “This is yet another highly addictive product that is being aggressively marketed and showing up in retail stores,” said Sombra Chaney, Imperial County Tobacco Coalition Chair. “The popularity and prevalence could undermine the great work done on tobacco use in California.”
The survey includes state, regional and county level data with new insights on the density of stores selling tobacco and their proximity to schools; types of tobacco and alcohol products being sold; advertising and placement of such products in stores; the availability of e-cigarettes; and the availability and promotion of food options including low- or non-fat milk and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Additional survey findings in Imperial County:
72% of stores sell tobacco products near candy at the check-out and are near schools.
84% of stores sell candy, mint and liquor flavored non-cigarette tobacco products vs. 50% that sell milk.
92% of stores sell alcohol and 76% have alcohol exterior advertisement
40% of stores are selling good quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
Health advocates around the state released the survey results today, with thirteen press events taking place simultaneously throughout California. Today’s data release marks the launch of Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, a statewide campaign – formed by tobacco prevention, nutrition and alcohol prevention partners working in collaboration – to improve the health of Californians by informing them about the impacts of unhealthy product marketing in the retail environment. In Imperial County, the Campaign will consist of educating consumers and stores about how marketing practices influence consumption of unhealthy products, and assist in making the store environment a healthier place.
For state, regional and county specific data and more information on Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, visit www.HealthyStoresHealthyCommunity.com.