Sonora, CA — The Public Health Department released data from a survey on the availability and marketing of tobacco in Tuolumne, Calaveras and statewide. The survey is the first and largest survey analyzing all 58 counties and their stores in three categories; tobacco, alcohol, and food in stores.
Tuolumne County Health Officer, Dr. Todd Stolp says the survey indicates that young people are specifically targeted with promotions for unhealthy products like; flavored cigars, e-cigarettes, soda, candy, and alcohol. Stolp also says adult smoking rates in Tuolumne County are one of the highest in the state at 26%. Calaveras County Health Officer Dr. Dean Kelaita notes the Calaveras County smoking rate dropped 18.2%, but remains above the state rate of 13.8%. Dr. Kelaita says, “The tobacco industry continues to find new ways and new products to lure in our youth to try tobacco products.”
Dr. Stolp says, “Marketing practices in stores often operate under the radar.” The majority, 86%, of tobacco products in Tuolumne County are sold near candy in Tuolumne. The study found that tobacco merchants are often within 1,000 feet of schools and alcohol ads are placed three feet and below or near candy and toys at 74% of Calaveras stores. Calaveras reports 52% of stores have “unhealthy exterior advertising while only 9% have healthy exterior advertising.” Over 83% of Calaveras stores sell flavored cigarillos or little cigars.
Forty percent of stores in Tuolumne County reported sell e-cigarettes and 90% of stores selling tobacco also sell chewing tobacco. The survey found that in Calaveras stores 43% sell e-cigarettes. All of the stores surveyed in Tuolumne and Calaveras sell alcohol, the statewide rate is 71%. In Tuolumne 94% of stores sell flavored alcoholic beverages, in Calaveras they all do, and the statewide rate is 82%.
Statewide the number of stores selling e-cigarettes quadrupled in the last two years from about 11% in 2011 to 46% in 2013. Tuolumne County Tobacco Control Coordinator, Kristina Herrera, says “E-cigarettes are essentially an addictive drug delivery system that is being aggressively marketed and showing up in retail stories. The impact not only threatens to re-normalize cigarette smoking, but it also opens the door to the exploitation of young consumers with targeted messaging.”
The goal of survey was to “shed light on what products are available and promoted in communities”. More than 7,300 retail stores, 700 public health representatives, community volunteers, and youth participated in the survey from July through October 2013. The data can be found at www.healthystoreshealthycommunity.com