Florida’s stores are the front lines of tobacco control

Dear Editor:

We as Floridians are encountering something that kills an average of three Floridians an hour, every hour of every day. It kills an estimated total of 32,300 Floridians each year.  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. They increased advertising dollars at the point of sale by more than 28% 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,” 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, like electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn devices.  

E-cigarettes are not safe, especially for youth and young adults. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a dangerous and addictive chemical. E-cigarette companies market their products by promoting flavors, including many that are especially appealing to youth. According to the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, flavors were the leading reason for youth e-cigarette use. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of flavored pod or cartridge-based e-cigarettes, new, disposable products (like Puff Bars, Stig and Smok) popular among youth are not covered under that policy. By evolving product design to get around FDA regulations, the e-cigarette industry is continuing to disregard the best interest of communities. Further, while the FDA policy bans mint flavored e-cigarettes, menthol flavored e-cigarettes can still be sold. 

The front line in the ongoing work to save these lives is at the point of sale. What is Tobacco Free Bradford Partnership doing to counter act the millions of dollars being spent marketing cigarettes and other tobacco products, often at retail locations next to our schools?  Tobacco Free Bradford and our Bradford County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT)  Chapter have focused our efforts on educational and awareness activities to equip our community partners and members with the truth about Big Tobacco’s predatory marketing at the retail point of sale.  Our SWAT youth have a “Not a Lab Rat” campaign that provides another platform for youth to take a stand against Big Tobacco and educate their peers about the true dangers of tobacco and nicotine products and how marketing plays a huge role in youth usage.  If you would like to learn more about joining our efforts to combat predatory marketing at the retail point of sale or to become a champion for tobacco prevention efforts locally, visit http://www.tobaccofreebradford.com or call/email Candace Osteen at 904-703-5445 or [email protected].

Candace Osteen

Tobacco Policy Manager-Bradford