News and Events

Tobacco Retailer Density Tells a Story
By Leslie Spurlock
March 1, 2016

VERO BEACH, Fla. – Why is it important look at the tobacco retail environment? Because tobacco use is the still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

75% of young people who start using tobacco before age 18 become the tobacco industry’s adult tobacco users. The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report tells us exposure to tobacco industry advertising and tobacco product displays increases youth tobacco initiation and makes it harder for current smokers to quit.

Tobacco retailer density is measured by the number of retailers per 1,000 people. In Florida the density per 1,000 youth is 7.2; in Indian River County, the density is greater at 8.2 per 1,000 youth.

No one, especially adolescents and youth, makes decisions in a vacuum, so the environment matters. 17% of Indian River’s tobacco retailers are within 1,000 feet of schools. Higher retailer density means easier access to tobacco and higher amounts of tobacco product advertising, tempting youth use initiation and making it harder for adults to quit.

Communities who want to reduce tobacco retailer density around schools and enforce local licensing rules are not prohibited from doing so by Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act preemption clause. It’s time to start thinking locally when it comes to protecting youth from the effects of tobacco retailer density.

In partnership with CounterTools and Tobacco Free Florida, ten locally trained Tobacco Free Partnership members are going out across Indian River County conducting store assessments.

“I don’t know why, but people just seem to open up to me”, said Marie Blanchard, an active member of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Indian River County and an employee with the the Florida Department of Health. Marie has completed over 50 assessments and is taking on more because she not only enjoys talking with shop owners and managers, but as a long-time residents of Vero Beach she is interested in seeing how marketing tactics affect the retail environment.

Marie has founds that some retailers are in favor of protecting children and are doing what is currently required to decrease youth tobaco access. Marie’s success will help tell Indian River’s tobacco retail environment story.

When it is written it will guide it options for future policies. Stay tuned.