The tobacco industry constantly targets populations through strategic marketing and point-of-sale advertising. You may not always notice these advertising patterns when tobacco products are not a common purchase for you, but the exposure is what continues to drive their market.
For younger populations, these tactics are much more damaging because they play on the ability to easily influence and attract children. A variety of tobacco products are commonly seen behind the counter near the eye-level candies and snacks that children gravitate towards. Exposing children to head-height tobacco advertisements is a blatant attempt to attract younger generations.
As a member of the Tobacco Free Alachua Partnership, I have had the opportunity to conduct tobacco surveys in stores in Alachua County. Specifically, point-of-sale marketing data was collected to give the partnership a better sense of tobacco in our community.
Point-of-sale marketing aims to influence behaviors and attitudes towards tobacco through explicit and implicit approaches. Through this approach, an individual’s attention, memory and attitude towards smoking behaviors can be subtly altered.
Completing these surveys has provided insight and brought attention to areas that, as a student, are not always seen. A commonality between the locations was placing a tobacco advertisement at the entrance or on the counter. Again, these ads are placed at approximately a child’s eye level, just above the latest Snickers creation.
The flavored product outlet also has an ongoing impact on sales, more than I ever imagined. Standing in the store taking note of the product placement, I also found myself drawn to the unique packaging of “On!” nicotine sachets and the different tropical flavors of e-cigarettes.
For a student who has basic knowledge about tobacco, its addictive nature and future complications, it was easy to quickly recognize the marketing tactics involved. But for a younger child, this distinction becomes blurred or not known at all. .
To protect our future generations from the permanent targets of the tobacco industry, we must hold companies and stores accountable for how they promote products. This can be done through routine compliance checks at stores that have agreed to the terms of ‘Voluntary Compliance Assurance’.
This compliance requires stores to adhere to a standard of tobacco marketing and placement through restrictions agreed upon with the state Attorney General. It focuses on specific products such as candy-like cigarettes, underage employment policies, enforcement and monitoring of selling age. Not only should regular compliance checks be carried out on voluntary compliance assurance sites such as Circle K or Shell, but we should also aim to extend the reach of surveys to other store owners who wish to participate or deepen their understanding. of the impact of tobacco.
While restricting the complete sale of tobacco is a large and nearly impossible task, working with owners and community members to understand how particular marketing tactics may impact an individual is more beneficial. An important takeaway from what I’ve seen in our community is the need for collaboration.
As tobacco-free partners of Alachua, we can recognize where improvements need to be made in stores while recognizing that for some family stores or larger locations they may not understand the seriousness of tobacco or that products may be sold in a safe. , neutral manner. Going forward, be aware of the marketing tactics involved and how they may even influence your views on tobacco.
Megan Luechauer is a student at the University of Florida and a member of Tobacco Free Alachua.
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