News and Events

Point of Sale Tobacco Advertising Impacts Youth Tobacco Use
September 19, 2018

Have you ever been tempted to buy the candy near your local store’s check-out counter? What product is on the door or windows of your neighborhood convenience store? When you’re pumping gas, what type of product is being advertised on or near the pumps? Chances are the product at the gas pump and convenience store is tobacco. All of these are examples of point of sale marketing. It creates impulse buying for that candy bar. But what if you quit smoking recently and you saw a wall of tobacco behind the cash register? What if you are a child and tobacco ads on that convenience store door are at eye level? Point of sale marketing is designed intentionally to seize attention. But who’s attention is being seized and manipulated? Exposure to point of sale can cause a relapse in adults who have quit, and although the majority of adults become resistant to advertising, tobacco ads with colorful packaging and flavors are noticed three times more frequently by children than adults.

Point of sale resonates with children. When they see so many tobacco products with bright packaging and flavors, they perceive it to be a normal and harmless activity. They are more likely to become curious as adolescents and try the product. 90% of adult smokers began using tobacco before age 18. That is not a coincidence. It is an intentional marketing practice. If children between the ages of 11 and 17 did not begin using tobacco, (including electronic cigarettes) the tobacco industry would be out of customers. Exposure to point of sale marketing is linked to tobacco use initiation among adolescents. They have increased odds of ever smoking, experimental smoking, initiation, and becoming a daily or occasional smoker.      

State and local law enforcement officers sometimes conduct underage sales of tobacco during sting operations for underage sales of alcohol. We need law enforcement to do that because it is a criminal offense. There are other violations, point of sale violations, that are considered administrative and are not monitored. Certain corporations that sell tobacco like Walgreens, 7-11, WalMart, Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Valero and others are bound by Assurance of Voluntary Compliance contracts to reduce tobacco access and desirability of tobacco to youth. In these AVCs, retailers must keep tobacco ads to brand name, logo, and price, keep them within the tobacco display area (not by gas pumps), keep tobacco behind a barrier so it’s inaccessible, not sell look-alike products, and keep tobacco away from other products that appeal to children. These are measures that reduce the influence of tobacco on our children, but who monitors compliance?

These AVC measures which could reduce children’s exposure to point of sale tobacco have not been formally assessed until recently. In the past year, Tobacco Free Partnership members assessed compliance at 19 stores in Indian River County and found every retailer had some type of violation. Nearly 84% violated sign restrictions having more than just the logo, brand name and price displayed. Tobacco was easily accessible without a clerk’s assistance in several sites. Florida’s Tobacco license requires retailers to post a clear and conspicuous sign in each place of business stating that: THE SALE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF 18 IS AGAINST FLORIDA LAW. PROOF OF AGE IS REQUIRED FOR PURCHASE. However, three 7-11 retailers and two Shell stations were in violation of this basic tobacco license requirement. The assessment exercise shows clearly that no one is regularly monitoring retailers for compliance with administrative requirements.

What’s the solution? Strategies have been developed to educate retailers about their responsibility to adhere to rules that decrease youth access to tobacco. If compliance is not achieved, a local tobacco retail license may be the next step for our community. To join us in decreasing youth tobacco use, please email or call 772-577-3701.