The tobacco industry consistently targets populations through strategic marketing and point-of-wale advertising. You may not always notice these advertising patterns when tobacco products aren’t a common purchase for you, but exposure is what continues to drive their market.
For younger populations, these tactics are far more damaging as they play into the ability to easily influence and attract children. A variety of tobacco products are typically seen behind the counter nearby to the eye-level candies and snacks that children gravitate toward. Exposing children to eye-level advertisements of tobacco products is a blatant attempt to attract younger generations.
As a Tobacco Free Alachua Partnership member, I had the opportunity to conduct tobacco surveys within stores around Alachua County. More specifically, point-of-sale marketing data was collected to give the partnership a better idea of tobacco in our community.
Point-of-sale marketing aims to influence behavior and attitudes toward tobacco through explicit and implicit approaches. Through this approach, an individual’s attention, memory and attitude toward tobacco behaviors can be subtly altered.
Conducting these surveys provided insight and attention to areas that, as a college student, are not always seen. A commonality between locations was to place a tobacco advertisement at the entrance or on the counter. Once again, these advertisements are placed at approximately a child’s eye level, right above the newest Snickers creation.
The point of sale of flavored products also has a continued impact on sales, more so than I ever knew. Standing in the store taking note of product placement, I found myself also being drawn to the unique packaging of “On!” nicotine pouches and the different tropical flavors of e-cigarettes.
For a college student who has background knowledge of tobacco, its addictive nature and future complications, it was easy to quickly acknowledge the marketing tactics at play. But for a younger child, this distinction becomes blurred or not known at all.
To protect our future generations from the continued targets of the tobacco industry, we must hold companies and stores accountable for how they promote the products. This can be done through routine compliance checks at stores that have agreed to the terms of the “Assurance Voluntary Compliance.”
This compliance holds stores to a standard of marketing and tobacco placement through restrictions agreed upon with the state’s attorney general. It focuses on specific products such as candy lookalike cigarettes, hiring policies of underage individuals, age-of-sale enforcement and monitoring. Not only should regular compliance checks be done on Assurance Voluntary Compliancelocations such as Circle K or Shell, but we should also aim to expand the reach of surveys to other store owners that are willing to participate or further their understanding of tobacco impact.
While restricting the complete sale of tobacco is a large and almost impossible task, working with owners and community members to understand how particular marketing tactics can impact an individual proves to be more beneficial. A large takeaway from what I saw within our community is the need for collaboration.
We, as Tobacco Free Alachua partners, can recognize where improvements in stores need to be made while also acknowledging that for some family-owned stores or larger locations, they might not understand the severity of tobacco or that the products can be sold in a safe , neutral way. Moving forward, be aware of the marketing tactics at play and how they can even influence your perspective of tobacco.
Megan Luechauer is a University of Florida student and Tobacco Free Alachua member.
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