Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the nation, and treating tobacco related illness costs New York taxpayers more than $8 billion annually in healthcare costs. (1) Despite previous successes such as New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act and the continued decline in youth smoking rates, it is clear that more needs to be done to prevent youth from picking up their first cigarettes. Tobacco marketing is a direct influence on the youth that begin smoking: 75% of teens shop in convenience stores at least once per week (2), and research shows that exposure to tobacco marketing is a primary cause of youth smoking. Retail stores are the main channel of communication for the tobacco industry, and they spend more money to market their products than the junk food, soda and alcohol industries combined.
What is tobacco marketing and who does it affect?
Tobacco marketing refers to the posters and signs inside and outside stores, as well as the colorful, well‐lit displays of tobacco products behind the counter in most convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies and grocery stores. Exposure to both ads and product displays has been shown to make youth more likely to start smoking. The more tobacco marketing kids see, the more likely they are to smoke. Most adult smokers became addicted before they graduated from high school: 90% of them started before the age of 18. (3) Research shows that exposure to tobacco marketing in stores is a primary cause of youth smoking.
How big of a problem is tobacco marketing?
The tobacco companies spend more than $9.8 billion annually to market their deadly products to current and potential customers. (3) They spend an estimated $360.3 million in New York State alone. That translates to $1 million every single day. (4)
What are some of the possible solutions to POS marketing?
There are several options that the New York State Tobacco Control Program is exploring to reduce the impact that tobacco will have on youth.
1. One option is to decrease the number and density of tobacco retailers through a long-term zoning plan or licensing at the local level. By either requiring that tobacco retailers submit to local licensing or by revising zoning codes to not allow future tobacco retailers to open near schools, playgrounds and other places youth visit, youth would have more limited access to tobacco. The visibility of both advertisments and the packages of tobacco products themselves leaves a lasting impression in the minds of youth and increases the odds that they will experiment with tobacco and in turn become addicted. By decreasing the visbility of these products we can support youth in making healthier choices.
2. Many countries now require tobacco displays to be covered. By asking that retailers put their tobacco products in cabinets or drawers and out of sight, youth who visit these locations would not be exposed to the marketing on the packages and the shelving. This has been effective in countries around the world in reducing the number of youth who begin smoking. After Iceland banned the display of tobacco in 1999, the prevalence of smoking among 15 year olds fell from 18.6% to 13.6% two years later. Canada has had notable success as well: smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds fell from 22% in 2002 (when the display ban was enacted) to 13% in 2009! (5) Irish teenagers were less likely to believe that they could buy cigarettes after the display ban in 2009, (6) and young people were less likely to believe that smoking was common among their peers. (7)
3. Another solution would be to ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies. Some retailers, such as Target and Wegmans have already chosen not to sell tobacco products, however there are 4,300 licensed pharmacies in New York State, many of which sell tobacco. The California Department of Health notes that the United States is the only place in the world where tobacco products are sold in pharmacies. (8) Pharmacies function as health care product providers and offer medications for smoking cessation: tobacco has no place there. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies is common sense, and will reduce the access that youth have to tobacco products.
In these difficult times, will this campaign hurt small business owners?
This campaign is not an attack on small business owners. We do not seek to prevent retailers from selling tobacco products – we are working to minimize the effect of marketing on impressionable children and teens. Smoking costs New York State taxpayers in excess of $8 billion per year in healthcare costs. Measures that reduce smoking rates can only improve the economy by decreasing healthcare costs for businesses, as well as improving productivity and the economy.
How much control does the tobacco industry really have inside privately owned stores?
The tobacco companies pay retailers – including giving them free shelving, racks and cabinets – to put tobacco products in the most visible locations in stores. Many retailers sign contracts with tobacco companies, whose sales reps measure, inch‐by-inch, the shelving area that retailers are required to use for displaying and marketing tobacco products. Industry representatives work in our community each day to make sure that stores adhere strictly to the contract at all times. Industry representatives also provide monetary incentives when the retailer places their product in the most visible locations, including payments and access to special promotions. As a result, many New York retailers have become ensnared in a contractual web where they are stuck doing the tobacco industry’s dirty work.
Isn’t the FDA doing something about this already?
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) specifically grants states and localities the authority to regulate the time, place and manner of tobacco advertising and promotions. (9) This means that states and localities have the power to protect our kids from in‐store tobacco marketing.
Hasn’t the anti-tobacco campaign succeeded since smoking is banned indoors in New York State?
While clean indoor air has made New York a much healthier place to live, work and play, each day an unacceptable number of teens light their first cigarette in a lifetime of addiction. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, each year, 22,500 new youth begin smoking in New York State alone. (10)
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