Surveillance of Point-of Purchase Tobacco:
Advertising and Placement in Local Businesses
Martin County, Florida / June 2010

By Valerie Graham, Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Martin County

Introduction:
During June 2010, staff of the Quit Doc Research & Education Foundation (QDREF), the Tobacco Free Partnership of Martin County (TFPMC), and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapters, conducted local surveillance to evaluate the amount of point-of-purchase tobacco advertising and product placement in Martin County, Florida.

Point-of-sale advertising is a major cause of underage smoking in the United States according to a news release from Stanford University (July 2010). The Stanford Prevention Research Center found that youth, ages 11 to 14 years old, who regularly visited stores with point-of-sale tobacco ads are twice as likely to try smoking as those who made infrequent visits. Lisa Henriksen, a senior research scientist at the Center states, “The tobacco industry argues the purpose of this type of advertising is to encourage smokers to switch brands, but this study shows that it encourages teenagers to pick up a deadly habit…. the exposure is unavoidable, it is impossible to miss.”

Middle and high school youth in Martin County are above the state average of middle and high school youth who have smoked cigarettes, smoked cigars, or used any form of tobacco in the past 30 days (Florida Youth Tobacco Survey). The focus of our local surveillance was to assess the level of tobacco advertising, and the amount of self-service tobacco, that these children and youth are exposed to on a daily basis by focusing on the tobacco retailers within a 3-mile radius of all Martin County Middle and High School campuses.  Due to the proximity of schools in Stuart and Jensen Beach, many of these tobacco retailers are near 2 or more schools, including eight local elementary schools.

To conduct this surveillance we utilized the StoreALERT survey tool; this method was developed as part of a national study, and is currently monitored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  The StoreALERT survey looks at both exterior and interior advertising (copy of survey tool included in this report).  StoreALERT training sessions were conducted to recruit and prepare community volunteers and Martin County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth.  Hidden Oaks Middle School and Martin County High School SWAT chapters were particularly involved in collecting survey data.

Using StoreALERT criteria, QDREF staff compiled a list of potential businesses to survey from each of the following categories:

Methodology:
The sampling strategy was designed to produce survey results that are representative of 127 retailers within 3 miles of public school campuses sorted by zip codes within Martin County. As of June 30, 2010, this method resulted in a sampling of 73 (58%) of the retailers in Martin County that fit the criteria.  Survey samples will continue to be compiled and this report will be updated as appropriate.

 

TYPES OF RETAIL STORES SURVEYED:  MARTIN COUNTY, FL

Store Types

Note:
Over half of the stores surveyed were Convenience Stores, Gas Stations, or a combination of the two because these are the type of retail stores that children or youth are exposed to, and influenced by, most often especially when located near their school campus. 

Grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and drug stores usually receive good StoreALERT scores due to specifically designated tobacco sale areas/advertising located in those type of retailers.

 

STOREALERT GRADE: 
ALL MARTIN COUNTY TOBACCO RETAILERS

Grades, all retailers

Overall, among ALL stores surveyed within 3 miles of middle and high schools, 63.0% received a grade of “D” or “F”, meaning these retail stores had a significant amount of tobacco advertising. This is a significant issue in our community because these are precisely the types of stores that children most often visit with their parents and teenagers tend to patronize, especially after acquiring their driver’s license.

 

STOREALERT GRADE:
MARTIN COUNTY CONVENIENCE +/- GAS RETAILERS:

Convenience stores, gas stations, and combined convenience-type stores OVERALL were the worst offenders:  95.2% of these stores received a grade of “D” or “F”!

 

STOREALERT GRADE:  MARTIN COUNTY RETAILERS EXCLUDING CONVENIENCE-TYPE RETAILERS:

For comparison, we lumped together all of the remaining potential tobacco retailers in the survey (grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, liquor stores, general stores, tobacco stores etc.) and excluded convenience stores.  Only 19.3% of ALL of these stores received a grade of “D” or “F”, and almost half (48.4%) received a grade of “A”

Important Note: The most aggressive tobacco product advertising in our community, as indicated by these surveys, is in the convenience and/or gas station type retail stores.  This is a significant issue in our community as these are the very stores that children visit most with their parents and teenagers tend to shop in.

 

Other Results:
Next we looked at two key indicators related to underage tobacco usage: 1) tobacco advertising outside of the retail outlet and 2) self-serve tobacco access at specific retailers.

EXTERIOR ADVERTISING: 
ALL MARTIN COUNTY TOBACCO RETAILERS:

54.8% of all tobacco retailers had some level of outdoor tobacco advertising, and 17.8% of those retailers had an overwhelming level of tobacco advertising.

Important Note: Identifying the instances of this type of advertising is very important because outdoor advertising affects the entire community, not just the individuals shopping inside of the stores.  Cigarette brand impressions can be seen when driving by these stores- brand-labeled items on property such as trash cans, illuminated signs, gas pump and door mats are widespread in convenience stores near schools.

Moderate or In-your-face advertising reflects businesses that have advertisements at eye level of children/youth, lit or mechanical signage, windows/doors plastered with signs, and/or advertisements throughout the store property, such as roadside or on the gas pumps.

 

EXTERIOR ADVERTISING: 
MARTIN COUNTY CONVENIENCE +/- GAS RETAILERS:

23.8% of convenience stores chose not to place outdoor tobacco advertising on their property BUT an alarmingly equal percentage, 23.8%, had the worst form of the in-your-face level of tobacco advertising in their locations.

 

EXTERIOR ADVERTISING: MARTIN COUNTY TOBACCO RETAILERS EXCLUDING CONVENIENCE-TYPE RETAILERS:

The majority of non-convenience-type retailers (74.2%) chose not to place outdoor tobacco advertisements on their property and only 9.7% had in-your-face advertising, a stark difference from the convenience-type store advertising facing our children and youth on a daily basis.

Self-Service Tobacco:
The second key indicator we focused on, self-service tobacco, assesses underage tobacco access and potential usage.  Self-service tobacco makes it easier for youth to make tobacco purchases, or to simply steal tobacco, in order to start and maintain tobacco addiction.  Self-serve tobacco includes flavored tobacco products such as SNUS and edible tobacco.

 

SELF SERVICE TOBACCO: 
ALL MARTIN COUNTY TOBACCO RETAILERS

Only 11% of ALL tobacco retailers in Martin County currently offer self-service tobacco.  Again, we decided to compare convenience stores and gas stations against all other tobacco retailers.

 

SELF SERVICE TOBACCO: 
MARTIN COUNTY CONVENIENCE +/- GAS RETAILERS

 

SELF SERVICE TOBACCO:  MARTIN COUNTY RETAILERS EXCLUSING CONVENIENCE +/- GAS RETAILERS

Self-service tobacco, all other retailers

Since the percentage of self-serve tobacco in retailers excluding convenience-type stores was higher, we identified which particular store(s) sold self-service tobacco over the others:

Self-service tobacco, liquor stores

50% of Liquor Stores are the retailer most likely to offer self-service tobacco.   This is less of an issue given that youth under 18 years are not likely to shop or hang out at these retailers.

Important Note:
If you exclude the convenience-type and liquor stores from the remaining potential tobacco retailers, only 4% of the remaining retailers offer self-service tobacco much lower than the percentage of convenience-type retailers:

Important Note:
When looking at self-service tobacco specifically in convenience-type stores, another alarming problem among these retailers is revealed: they offer self-service tobacco at twice the rate (9.5%) of the ALL remaining retailers. 

Easy access of tobacco products at retailers that children and youth utilize most, makes it easier for them to begin or maintain a tobacco addiction.

 

Summary:
Due to the higher than state average of underage tobacco usage in Martin County among middle and high school aged youth, surveillance to evaluate the extent of point-of-purchase advertising and tobacco placement in local tobacco retailers was conducted during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010.  The study focused on tobacco retailers within 3 miles of public school campuses using the StoreALERT Survey tool.

POINT-OF-PURCHASE ADVERTISING:
The results showed that 63% of all stores surveyed within a 3 mile radius of public middle and high schools had a significant amount of tobacco advertising.
Convenience stores, gas stations, and combined gas/convenience stores were the worst offenders: 95.2% of those stores displayed a significant amount of tobacco advertising with a high majority of that advertising being “in-your-face” or very aggressive.

TOBACCO PLACEMENT/SELF-SERVE:
The second area of the surveillance focused on tobacco placement and self-serve purchase (or theft).  Only 11% of all retailers offered self-service tobacco. Convenience and/or gas stations offer self-service tobacco at twice the rate of all other tobacco retailers.

OTHER ISSUES
Another issue discovered during this surveillance was that most employees, especially in convenience-type stores, did not understand the different types of tobacco products they sold, were not able to identify edible tobacco products, and could not tell the difference between the packaging of candy products verses tobacco products, such as SNUS.

Convenience stores have clearly become, to all intents and purposes, tobacco stores marketing their tobacco products to the children and youth who frequently shop in, or drive by, these stores. 

 

 

A CALL TO ACTION!

The time has come to address this issue in Martin County as many other Florida communities have done successfully. 

ACTIONS TO ADDRESS POINT-OF PURCHASE ADVERTISING:


ACTIONS TO ADDRESS TOBACCO PLACEMENT/SELF-SERVE:

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Martin County is working hard to address these issues in our community. For more information on these issues and initiatives in Martin County, contact Valerie Graham.