We as Floridians are encountering something that kills an average of three Floridians an hour, every hour of every day. It’s being colorfully promoted and is readily available at a place you visit frequently—your local convenience store or gas station.
It’s tobacco products like cigarettes, dip and chew. And tobacco companies spend billions of dollars a year to market these addictive products at the point-of-sale retail locations where tobacco products are sold.
An estimated 32,300 Floridians die from smoking-related illnesses each year and tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the nation and in our state. Tobacco companies increased their advertising dollars at the point of sale by more than 42 percent in just one year. When it comes to recruiting new youth to use tobacco, studies show this tactic has been effective; the likelihood of starting can more than double for youth who visit a store with point-of-sale tobacco ads at least twice a week.
Tobacco executives view youth as “replacement smokers,” vs. the next generation of customers replacing those lost by the leading cause of preventable death in our state and our nation. To attract new youth smokers, the tobacco industry continues to evolve the market with new products such as electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.
Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and have a variety of harmful chemicals. They are also marketed by promoting flavors, including many that are especially appealing to youth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently sent warning letters to 17 manufacturers, distributors and retailers that were selling nicotine-containing e-liquids with labeling or advertising resembling kid-friendly food products such as juice boxes, candy or cookies that were identified as being false or misleading. Since then, all 17 companies have stopped selling those products. According to the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, more than 85 percent of e-cigarette users ages 12-17 used flavored e-cigarettes, and flavors were the leading reason for youth use.
The front-line in the ongoing work to save these lives is at the point of sale.
What is the DeSoto County Tobacco Prevention Program and QuitDoc Research and Education Foundation doing to counteract the millions of dollars being spent marketing cigarettes and other tobacco products, often at retail locations directly next to our schools?
In partnership with DeSoto County’s Students Working Against Tobacco Youth, the tobacco prevention program is addressing Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics at the point of sale with the “Not a Lab Rat” campaign.
This campaign gives youth in our county a voice to spread awareness and educate others about the longterm effects of marketing and advertising at the point of sale. Bringing awareness is the first step in addressing the need for local policy change and how this could ultimately change the lives of many in DeSoto County.
Through policy change efforts, The Quit Doc Foundation hopes to continue to gain champions for Local Tobacco Retail Licensing, to ensure that Big Tobacco knows our youth are not lab rats and their health should not be a part of their experimentation with new emerging products.
Point-of-sale efforts are imperative to see the longterm results for lowering youth access and the overall tobacco usage rates in DeSoto County.