News and Events

Tobacco Product Marketing and Advertising Influences Kids
by Kristina Zachry, M.P.H.

December 12, 2019

Studies have shown that tobacco use is associated with exposure to retail advertising and easy access to tobacco products. Tobacco companies have significant control over their products’ location, advertising, and pricing in retail stores in return for financial incentives that they provide to retailers. Since tobacco companies are limited in the advertising options they can legally use, a vital industry strategy involves saturating convenience stores with tobacco ads and highly visible tobacco products.

According to the CDC, in 2017, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $9.36 billion, or more than $25 million per day, on advertising and promotion of their products in the United States. That’s more than $1 million every hour! About 71.7%, or $6.19 billion, of that total was spent on payments to retailers for price discounts to reduce the cost of cigarettes for consumers. Unfortunately, current information on promotion and marketing of electronic products is not available, but a quick glance around at any local convenience store will show you that these products are also aggressively marketed – especially brands popular with youth, such as JUUL.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ 2016 Deadly Alliance Update Report found nearly half of adolescents visit a convenience store at least once a week. This is especially concerning, considering the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that, “Advertising and promotional activities by the tobacco companies cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.” Furthermore, exposure to tobacco marketing and tobacco product displays can make quit attempts more difficult, as they increase tobacco product cravings.

The pervasiveness and density of tobacco retailers, particularly near schools, makes it easier for youth to access tobacco. Local retail licensing policies can address where tobacco can be sold through regulating the type, number, location, and/or density of tobacco retailers in an area. Licensing and zoning policies provide local governments with opportunities to effectively reduce youth exposure to and availability of tobacco products. These types of policies can also help to reduce neighborhood disparities in tobacco retailer density and marketing volume.

Levy County has nearly 70 establishments with licenses to sell tobacco, not including stores that only sell electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS or e-cigarettes) as they are not required to hold a license to sell nicotine by the state. The Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County has completed monitoring of the types of tobacco and related products that are sold in every store and how these products are marketed. Further monitoring of a subset of stores identified as having additional agreements for responsible tobacco retailing were also recently completed.

The results in Levy County showed that the tobacco industry heavily markets their products in local stores and advertising of products is prevalent, even in stores with additional agreements. Often tobacco products are displayed within 12 inches of youth-oriented items, such as candy or toys. Many advertisements are placed at a child’s eye level (3 feet or below). Local tobacco retail licensing policies can also address these problems, as well as require stores that only sell e-cigarettes to have a local license to sell products containing nicotine.

In 2001, Levy County Commissioners passed a tobacco product placement ordinance that applies to unincorporated areas, which specifies that tobacco products are to be placed behind the sales counter, requiring retailer assistance for purchase. The cities of Williston and Cedar Key have also passed similar ordinances; however, Cedar Key’s ordinance is the only policy that specifically includes electronic cigarettes. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (e-cigarettes) did not become widely available in the United States until 2006.

Students in Levy County are still accessing and using tobacco products, despite the previously passed policies. According to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey in 2018, 22.8% of Levy youth ages 11-17 reported current use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, hookah, or electronic vaping - compared to the state rate of 19.1%. Current use of cigarettes (5.2%) by Levy County youth is over twice the state of Florida rate (2.2%) and Levy youth use smokeless tobacco (6.8%) at a rate FOUR times higher than the state rate (1.7%). Current use of e-cigarettes by Levy youth (14.8%) is now slightly lower than the rate for Florida (15.7%), down from 16.8% reported in 2016 by Levy youth.

The Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County work to educate community members and decision makers about how youth and adult tobacco use in Levy is impacted by tobacco product placement, marketing, and advertising at the point of sale in convenience stores, gas stations, and other stores that sell tobacco products. Partnership members advocate for the passing of local policies to protect youth from addiction and the tobacco industry’s influence.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County, please contact us at info@tfp-levy.org or 352-577-4309 or visit our partnership website: www.tfp-levy.org

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fact Sheet: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm
  2. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids 2016 Deadly Alliance Update Report: https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/content/what_we_do/industry_watch/store_report_slideshow/Deadly_Alliance_2016.pdf
  3. 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey Levy County Report: http://www.floridahealth.gov/statistics-and-data/survey-data/florida-youth-survey/florida-youth-tobacco-survey/2018CountyReports.html