The Tobacco Industry agreed to marketing restrictions in the Master Settlement Agreement. That doesn’t mean they gutted their marketing budgets, took their toys, and went home.
The tobacco industry spends 11 billion dollars each year marketing tobacco, and 85% of that total… 9.5 billion dollars… is spent directly in retail stores on point-of-purchase advertising and marketing. Why? Because no restrictions on this type of advertising were included in the Master Settlement Agreement. As always, Big Tobacco finds the loophole and exploits it.
Now think about this: since 1,300,000 new teenagers start using nicotine products like electronic cigarettes and cigars every year, that means the tobacco industry is spending $8,500 dollars to recruit each new smoker, and $7,200 of that is spent to promote smoking in the retail outlets that our children visit on a regular basis!
We are not talking about 9.5 billion dollars worth of signs. A lot of those dollars are spent to discount prices (in the form of special prices or 2-for-the-price-of-1 promotions), which makes it more affordable for teenagers to smoke.
The QuitDoc Foundation has found that one of the best ways to bring attention to this problem is to have youth take an active role in evaluating the retail stores in their community. Counter Tools draws on the best available science and an evidence-based model of change to help state and local-level partners reduce the impact of products that harm the health of individuals and communities. They have proven tactics and resources to focus on prevention strategies, enforcement tactics, or a combination of both. Their website has trainings, technical assistance, and advanced technology aimed at increasing our partners’ capacity to build healthier communities. If you are interested in having your students participate in this program, we would be happy to coordinate the project. Please contact Dr. Barry Hummel for more information.
Electronic Devices are providing a unique challenge for enforcement.
Nearly three quarters — 74 percent — of youth said that they obtained a JUUL vaping device at a store or retail outlet. Internet purchase was not the most common way youth obtained JUUL — only 6 percent reported that they received the product through an online transaction — nearly all youth who tried to buy the product online were successful. Among those who attempted an online transaction, 89 percent succeeded. The FDA has stepped in to enforce regulations on the selling of electronic nicotine devices.
Point of Sale Tobacco Advertising Impacts Youth Tobacco Use
by Leslie Spurlock, Indian River County Have you ever been tempted to buy the candy near your local store’s check-out counter? What product is on the door or windows of your neighborhood convenience store? When you’re pumping gas, what type of product is being advertised on or near the pumps? Chances are the product at the gas pump and convenience store is tobacco. All of these are examples of point of sale marketing. It creates impulse buying for that candy bar.
But what if you quit smoking recently and you saw a wall of tobacco behind the cash register? What if you are a child and tobacco ads on that convenience store door are at eye level? Point of sale marketing is designed intentionally to seize attention. But who’s attention is being seized and manipulated? Exposure to point of sale can cause a relapse in adults who have quit, and although the majority of adults become resistant to advertising, tobacco ads with colorful packaging and flavors are noticed three times more frequently by children than adults. Point of sale resonates with children. When they see so many tobacco products with bright packaging and flavors, they perceive it to be a normal and harmless activity. They are more likely to become curious as adolescents and try the product. 90% of adult smokers began using tobacco before age 18. That is not a coincidence. It is an intentional marketing practice. If children between the ages of 11 and 17 did not begin using tobacco, (including electronic cigarettes) the tobacco industry would be out of customers. Exposure to point of sale marketing is linked to tobacco use initiation among adolescents. They have increased odds of ever smoking, experimental smoking, initiation, and becoming a daily or occasional smoker.
State and local law enforcement officers sometimes conduct underage sales of tobacco during sting operations for underage sales of alcohol. We need law enforcement to do that because it is a criminal offense. There are other violations, point of sale violations, that are considered administrative and are not monitored. Certain corporations that sell tobacco like Walgreens, 7-11, WalMart, Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Valero and others are bound by Assurance of Voluntary Compliance contracts to reduce tobacco access and desirability of tobacco to youth. In these AVCs, retailers must keep tobacco ads to brand name, logo, and price, keep them within the tobacco display area (not by gas pumps), keep tobacco behind a barrier so it’s inaccessible, not sell look-alike products, and keep tobacco away from other products that appeal to children. These are measures that reduce the influence of tobacco on our children, but who monitors compliance? What’s the solution? Strategies have been developed to educate retailers about their responsibility to adhere to rules that decrease youth access to tobacco. If compliance is not achieved, a local tobacco retail license may be the next step for our community. To join us in decreasing youth tobacco use and to get a presentation on Point of Sale Marketing and Assurance of Voluntary Compliance contact us here.