To the editor of THE EAGLE:
This month, Tobacco-Free Community Partnerships around Massachusetts launched a media campaign to educate residents about the tobacco industry’s use of in-store tobacco product displays to target youth. The campaign reflects research that the more tobacco marketing kids see, the more likely they are to start smoking.
Every day, our kids are exposed to a tremendous amount of tobacco industry influence in convenience stores, gas stations and pharmacies. It is not an accident that tobacco products are displayed in the most visible location in stores -- directly behind the checkout counter. Exposure to tobacco marketing in stores is a primary cause of youth smoking. We need to take action to protect our kids.
Over 90 percent of adult smokers started before they were 18-years-old and each year 4,700 youth in Massachusetts become new daily smokers. Youth who visit convenience stores more than twice per week are 64 percent more likely to begin smoking within the next 12 months than their peers who visit less often. Research also shows that retailers located near schools have more products on display and more signs.
The tobacco industry knows that to stay in business it needs to hook young people by using three tactics: price, packaging, and availability. They are selling products in colorful and fun packaging that attracts young people, pricing these products cheaply to encourage impulse buys, and selling them at a variety of locations, including gas stations, convenience stores and pharmacies.
The writer is director of Public Health Initiatives, Berkshire AHEC/Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.