Other voices l When Florida stores are on the front lines of tobacco control | Columnists


As Floridians, we encounter something that kills an average of three Floridians per hour, every hour of every day. It kills an estimated total of 32,300 Floridians each year. It’s colorfully promoted and readily available at a place you visit frequently – your local convenience store or gas station.

These are tobacco products such as cigarettes, dip and chews. And tobacco companies spend billions of dollars a year to market these addictive products at the “point of sale” – the retail outlets where tobacco products are sold. They increased point-of-sale ad spend by more than 28% in just one year.

When it comes to recruiting new young people to use tobacco, studies show that this tactic is effective – the likelihood of starting can more than double for young people who visit a store with tobacco advertisements at the point of sale at least twice a week.

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Tobacco executives view young people as “replacement smokers,” the next generation of customers replacing those lost to the leading cause of preventable death in our state and country. To attract new young smokers, the tobacco industry continues to evolve the market with new products, such as e-cigarettes and non-combustion heat devices.

Electronic cigarettes are not safe, especially for young people and young adults. Most electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, a dangerous and addictive chemical. E-cigarette companies market their products by promoting flavors, many of which are particularly appealing to young people.

According to the 2016 Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, flavors were the top reason for e-cigarette use among young people. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale of flavored pod or cartridge e-cigarettes, new disposable products (like Puff Bars, Stig, and Smok) popular with young people are not covered by this policy. By evolving product designs to circumvent FDA regulations, the e-cigarette industry continues to disregard the best interests of communities. Additionally, although FDA policy prohibits 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 the Citrus County Tobacco Free Partnership doing to counter the millions of dollars spent marketing nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, often at outlets near our schools?

We educate young people about the dangers of toxic nicotine products and Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics, increasing access to prevention and withdrawal through agency collaboration and working with local decision makers to lead tobacco policy reform.

We also collect data from our local stores to educate Citrus County residents with point-of-sale facts. You can get involved by joining our Point of Sale Working Group! For more information, email [email protected]


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