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Reality Check Kicks Butt

On March 21, Kick Butts Day, Reality Check youth advocates across New York State called on communities to pave the way to a tobacco-free generation. Each year the national tobacco-free day aims to increase awareness about the problem of tobacco use. Reality Check, the youth component of Advancing Tobacco Free Communities, urged teens, adults, and local and state decision-makers to get the facts and take action to protect youth from tobacco marketing in stores. At several local venues in Cobleskill including Fusion Community Church, SUNY Cobleskill and CVS Pharmacy individuals were invited to sign a #BeTheFirst banner showing support for creating the first tobacco-free generation.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in New York State, killing 28,200 individuals every year. The average age of a new smoker in New York State is 13 years old. 90 percent of adult smokers say they first tried smoking by age 18.

To coincide with Kick Butts Day, New York State’s Bureau of Tobacco Control shared the results of the 2016 New York Retail Advertising Tobacco Survey. Information was collected from a random sample of licensed tobacco retailers about advertising, promotions, and tobacco product displays. The data indicates that tobacco marketing is pervasive in the retail setting. About one in five retail outlets placed tobacco products and advertising at a child’s eye level (23 percent) or near items appealing to youth such as gum, candy, or toys (21 percent). About half of all stores had exterior tobacco product ads and 86 percent had interior ads. Tobacco price promotions were present in 66 percent of retail outlets where allowed by law. Almost all retail outlets had permanent book-case style displays behind the register (96 percent), and 55 percent of retailers dedicated more than half the space behind the register to tobacco marketing.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults. Tobacco products are one of the most heavily marketed consumer products in the US. In 2014, the tobacco industry spent nearly $9.1 billion on marketing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, 95 percent of which ($8.6 billion) was spent at the point-of-sale (POS). This amounts to $990,000 being spent on POS marketing for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products every hour. In New York State, $235 million a year, or nearly $650,000 a day, is spent on marketing tobacco products.

Tobacco companies place most of their advertising in stores where 75 percent of teens shop at least once per week. Stores located near schools contain nearly three times the amount of tobacco advertisements. Tobacco marketing displays in stores give youth the impression that tobacco products are easily accessible and tobacco use is acceptable.

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