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Tobacco, e-cigarettes Marketing Targets Kids

by Sarah Shapiro

The neighborhood convenience store can be a popular summer hangout for kids. Unfortunately, it’s often filled with displays and ads for tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Kids see it all, especially since products like chew, cigarillos and e-cigarettes come in bright packages like candy and gum. They also come in enticing flavors, like strawberry, cherry and banana split, and they’re often placed within reach of children, on the counter or near sweets.

That’s no coincidence. In its ongoing quest for new users, big tobacco pays a premium to place its products where they’ll be easily seen. If they can capture the interest of youth, they can encourage more nicotine addiction and use of conventional cigarettes.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the cigarette industry spends $726 million a year on product placement in stores, while the smokeless tobacco industry spends $64 million.

And according to a 2007 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the more cigarette marketing kids are exposed to, the more likely they are to smoke. Some studies show that kids who visit convenience stores two or more times a week are twice as likely to begin using tobacco.


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    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 9 of 10 smokers start before age 18. In Montana, 900 kids under age 18 become daily smokers each year, and 19,000 of them will die prematurely due to smoking.

    Many convenience stores are located near schools and parks. So it’s important that youth and their parents understand the impacts of in-store tobacco and e-cigarette marketing and how young people are targeted. This type of “point-of-sale” marketing promotes and normalizes the use of tobacco and nicotine and threatens the health of our children and our community.

    The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program and Lewis and Clark Public Health are working to raise awareness of tobacco marketing techniques through TV ads, billboards and educational presentations. If you’re interested in learning more, contact me at Lewis and Clark Public Health, 457-8924.

    Sarah Shapiro is the tobacco use prevention health educator for Lewis and Clark Public Health. 

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