News and Events

Tobacco Industry Advertising is Prevalent in Levy County
March 14, 2016

Members of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Levy County and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) recently learned more about tobacco industry marketing and advertising in retail stores and how it relates to youth tobacco use.

The research is very unnerving. Studies suggest that the stores that teens shop in the most have more than three times the amount of cigarette advertisements and promotional materials outside of the stores and almost three times more materials inside, compared to other stores in the community. Since two out of three kids will visit a convenience store at least once a week, the advertising opportunity is perfect for the tobacco industry to take advantage of for their goal of reaching young new customers.

Studies also suggest that when there are a higher number of tobacco retailers near schools, those schools tend to have higher smoking rates. This makes sense, since students often walk to nearby stores and stop in on their way to or from school for snacks and drinks. Also, the density of tobacco retailers is greater in low-income and minority neighborhoods, and those populations tend to be disproportionately addicted to tobacco.

Two partnership members and two SWAT members decided to team up and conduct a county-wide assessment of the retail stores in Levy County to see if their local stores show the same marketing and advertising strategies and patterns that these studies suggest.

It was a time-consuming task, but overall, 69 stores with tobacco licenses were assessed in Levy County. Over 60 of those stores were tackled by Kelli and Sam Nerau, who are sisters with a serious dedication to SWAT and tobacco prevention.
This was a learning experience for both girls, as they are fairly new to Levy County. When asked what they thought about the project, Sam said, “My favorite part of doing these surveys was being able to explore Levy County.” Her sister, Kelli, agreed with her and exclaimed, “I didn’t know Levy County has so many stores!”

Sam felt strongly that some of the stores they surveyed should be more family-oriented. She questioned, “Why do bait and tackle places even sell tobacco?” She added, “These stores and gas stations should really be more family-friendly.”

Kelli Nerau (Left) and Sam Nerau (Right)
spearhead the effort to conduct point-of-sale surveillance.

The TFP and SWAT members used a national store assessment program called Counter Tools, and they will be busy analyzing the new data over the next several months to see what unique findings emerge from their data collection for Levy County. There were a lot of stores in Levy that had an abundance of different types of advertising, spilling onto their property and plastering their windows and doors, creating a chaotic and mesmerizing display of influences for young people.

The density of tobacco retailers in Levy County is 1.9 per 1,000 people, which is greater than the Florida statewide average of 1.5 per 1000 people. Tobacco retailer density per 1,000 youth (under age 18) in Levy County is 9.3, which is also greater than the Florida statewide average of 7.2 retailers per 1000 youth. Thirteen percent of tobacco retailers in Levy County are within 1,000 feet of a school, which is less than the Florida statewide average of 26 percent. You can read the full Levy County report here.

Kelli and Sam are hopeful that the results of their project will lead to meaningful strategies that the partnership and SWAT can use in Levy County to help reduce youth exposure to the advertising and marketing influence that the tobacco industry has in the retail environment. “I’d like to see less places that can sell tobacco products,” says Kelli. Her sister Sam agreed, saying, “I’d be happy with less products and less advertising.”



Henriksen, L, et al., “Reaching youth at the point of sale: Cigarette marketing is more prevalent in stores where adolescents shop frequently,” Tobacco Control 13:315-318, 2004.

Henriksen, L, et al., “Association of retail tobacco marketing with adolescent smoking,” American Journal of Public
Health 94(12):2081-3, 2004.

Lovato, et al., 2007, Canadian Journal of Public Health; Henriksen, et al., 2008, Preventive Medicine.

Primack, BA, et al., “Volume of Tobacco Advertising in African American Markets: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Public Health Reports 122(5):607-615, September/October 2007.