Adults underestimate tobacco advertising in local stores

An informal survey conducted in the Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates county area finds that adults significantly underestimate the extent of tobacco product advertising in stores that sell cigarettes. As part of the annual Kick Butts Day, the survey was conducted by the Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes to see if local consumers are aware of the targeted marketing and its impressions on youth.

The survey found:

Some 90 percent of people surveyed said that when they visit a convenience store, supermarket or gas station, they observe 10 or fewer cigarette ads. In fact, a statewide study conducted for the New York State Department of Health in 2007 found an average of 18 ads per store.

Some 30 percent of people surveyed believed tobacco advertising influences children ‘a lot.”

Research has found that weekly or more frequent exposure to retail tobacco marketing is associated with a 50 percent increase in the odds that adolescents will ever smoke. Stores are one of the last venues where tobacco advertising reaches youth. Ads on TV, radio and billboards are banned, as well as cartoon characters, sponsorships and giveaways. Magazine advertising is restricted to predominantly adult-oriented publications. However, in-store advertising, promotions and product displays remain unrestricted.

Some 98 percent of adults questioned said they see tobacco advertising in stores and 72 percent notice products displayed behind the counter “most of the time” or “always.” So while adults notice the ads, they underestimate the amount of tobacco advertising, and its impact on children.

Tobacco companies spend billions each year to market their deadly products in convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. Of the $12.5 billion spent by cigarette companies on overall promotions in 2006, 90 percent was spent on point of sale advertisements, price discounts, promotional allowances, or special deals such as buy-one-get-one-free offers. National marketing data shows that 75 percent of teenagers shop in a convenience store at least once a week.

“These findings indicate that adults are concerned about the impact of tobacco advertising but underestimate how much of it kids are exposed to every time they walk into a convenience store,” said Penny Gugino, Director of TACFL. “As we educate them more about the extent of tobacco advertising and tobacco product displays, which are just a different form of commercial messaging, I think they will demand that stores change their policies.”

The survey was conducted by TACFL between Feb. 28 and March 7. Respondents were reached by telephone and in person. While not a statistically valid sample, the findings are believed to generally reflect knowledge and attitudes in the community as a whole. Full results of the five question survey are attached.

Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 20 percent of high school students still smoke.

In New York, tobacco use claims 25,400 lives and costs $8.17 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 14.8 percent of the state’s high school students smoke, and 24,100 kids become new daily smokers each year.

“We protect our children from many dangers, tobacco should definitely be one of them,” Gugino added.


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