To The Editor:
Halloween is over for another year, and the kids of St. Lawrence County are finishing up the last of their candy. While many parents are finding colorful candy wrappers under beds and in back packs as they are haunted by new, scarier apparitions of future dental bills, it could be worse. Kids may love to trick or treat on Halloween, but trickery is the favorite tactic of the tobacco industry all year long.
Tobacco companies use manipulative marketing tactics including displays of candy-colored cigarette packages, including actually adding candy flavors to the products themselves to entice new customers, especially youth. As St. Lawrence County Tobacco Program Coordinator, I am one of the many adults in this county who notices the tobacco displays and new flavored tobacco products in our local stores.
According to the Surgeon General, youth smoking is a pediatric epidemic and one of the primary factors is tobacco marketing. Tens of thousands of New York kids still begin smoking every year, which shouldnt be a surprise since the average retailer in the state has a colorful tobacco product display that is equivalent in size to more than 200 cigarette pack faces. Research shows that kids who shop at stores with tobacco marketing two or more times a week are more likely to start smoking.
At almost every convenience store or pharmacy in St. Lawrence County, kids are inundated with colorful tobacco displays surrounding the cash registers and tempted by cigarettes in candy-colored packages. The tobacco industry pays retailers to display tobacco products in these highly visible locations where youth are continually exposed.
According to the Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2011, 90 percent of the tobacco industrys marketing expenditures went to price discounts and promotional allowances that make cigarettes more affordable and ensure prime retail space. Several communities across the nation have taken steps to protect kids from tobacco marketing including more than 70 municipalities in Massachusetts which have implemented laws to restrict the sale of tobacco in stores containing a pharmacy. This type of regulation makes sense, given the increasing number of health care services being offered there. Tobacco products have the unique distinction of being the most destructive legal consumer product on the market, leading to nearly a half million preventable deaths each year in the United States. State and local governments have the power to restrict or regulate the time, place, or manner (but not content) of tobacco marketing to prevent underage tobacco use.
No child should be tricked into using a product that kills half its long term users. We need to protect all kids from the everyday trickery right in our neighborhoods.
Benjamin R. Todd
Tobacco Program Coordinator