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 N E W S   R E L E A S E 

Your Partner for a Healthy Community
Frank Kruppa — Public Health Director


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

For more information contact:
Tobacco Free Tompkins: Erin James, 607-274-6717 or Ted Schiele, 607-274-6712
American Cancer Society: Kim McMahon,  585-224-4926


New Survey Shows Youth Bombarded with Tobacco Ads in Area Stores

November 17, 2010 — (Ithaca, N.Y.) Tobacco companies call them “replacement smokers.” You call them your children.  Either way, area kids are being targeted by cigarette makers with a massive amount of advertising in local stores according to a survey released today by Tobacco Free Tompkins (T-Free) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Stores were randomly selected from a list of retailers licensed to sell tobacco in Tompkins Countyand 20 were visited during October.  Key findings of the observational survey, released today as part of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout®, include:

  • 90 percent of stores featured tobacco product displays behind the cash register.
  • Tobacco ads were found inside 75 percent of stores.
  • 20 percent of stores selling tobacco were located within 1,000 feet of school.

Research in the U.S. and abroad suggests that exposure to in-store tobacco promotions is a primary cause of youth smoking. Very few adult smokers begin after high school, with 90 percent of adult smokers starting at or before age 18.

“It's disgraceful. We’ve been able to limit tobacco company advertising in mass media, but they’ve adapted and are taking full advantage of one of their final venues to lure kids into smoking,” said Diana Cahill, Regional Vice President, Southern New York Region, American Cancer Society.  “By plastering stores with highly-lit displays and bright ads placed at kid level, they continue to focus on our kids as their next generation of customers.” 

In-store promotions are a major cause of youth smoking. A National Cancer Institute study concluded that exposure to cigarette advertising causes nonsmoking adolescents to initiate smoking and to move toward becoming regular smokers.  Another study found young people are more likely to be influenced by cigarette advertising than by peer or parental smoking.  A 2008 analysis found a direct relationship between increased teen smoking and the density of tobacco retailers around schools, while a paper published earlier this year found a direct relationship between the frequency that a kid visited stores containing tobacco advertising and his or her risk of becoming a smoker.

As a result of the recent Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FDA law) and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), retail stores are one of the last places where tobacco companies can expose kids to their advertising.  Consequently, tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year marketing their deadly products at the point of sale.  This is done by controlling dominant display space in retail stores and through in-store advertising.  Both are typically found around the cash register, sometimes referred to within the industry as the “goal post” because it is the one place in the store where everyone must go.  Tobacco companies invest a lot at these locations in creating so-called “power walls,” large, visually appealing displays of products intended to attract the interest of customers.

“Since most adults are not smokers they don’t even notice these tobacco product displays and promotions,” said Erin James, Public Health Educator at Tompkins County Health Department and Tobacco Free Tompkins. “But middle school and high school students do see them, especially in convenience stores, and they are much more likely than adults to remember them and be influenced by them.” James said that she often challenges adults to go into convenience stores to see the tobacco product displays so they see for themselves what kids are up against.

T-Free and ACS are using the Great American Smokeout® to raise awareness about the issue of the strong tobacco company presence in our stores and to encourage community members to take action to limit youth exposure to this dangerous and deadly influence.  

Smokers who want to quit should log onto a new web site - - created just for the Great American Smokeout®.  The focus of the web site is on living a healthy, active life.  Visitors are asked to share their reason for quitting and are provided with resources and tips to help make their attempt a success.   For more information, visit


About Tobacco Free Tompkins
Tobacco Free Tompkins, a program of the Tompkins County Health Department, is dedicated to reducing the social and economic burden of tobacco use in Tompkins County by keeping the air smoke-free, supporting smokers who want to quit, and helping teens beat the tobacco trap. Learn more at