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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Yolo County tobacco, alcohol availability statistics high

A statewide survey, including regional and county level data, reveals the density of stores selling, advertising and making available tobacco and alcohol products in proximity to minors. According to this study, Yolo County has more stores selling tobacco products near schools in comparison to the rest of California.

To sell tobacco, stores must attain a tobacco retail license from the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) as well as a California Cigarette and Tobacco Products License. Even with a displayed license these establishments are not permitted to sell tobacco or related paraphernalia to minors, have a self service display or give out samples. Additionally, there are restrictions as far as tobacco packaging, outdoor/storefront signs and general advertising.

“How tobacco products are marketed has long been one of the keys to the tobacco industry’s success at getting people to use their products,” said Steve Jensen, Yolo County Tobacco Education Program coordinator. “Marketing itself isn’t a bad thing, but targeting a young … population with visuals that give the impression tobacco doesn’t kill most of those who use it, is a troubling practice.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many factors associated with tobacco use, including social and physical environments, social groups, cognitive processes, biological factors and psychological needs. However, advertisements have proven to be a very powerful factor as well.

“Decades of research on the impact of marketing on youth shows that it is more influential than peer pressure at getting kids to start smoking,” Jensen said.

It has become concerning to health officials and the general community that these advertisements and general availability of tobacco and alcohol are becoming increasingly enticing to younger children and influencing them to lead lifestyles of possible obesity or chronic illness.

“As adults we’re desensitized to the unhealthy advertising and products in stores,” said Yolo County Health Officer Constance Caldwell, M.D., in a press release. ”We need to stop and notice how many unhealthy messages are surrounding our children every day.”

According to the statewide survey, the results of Yolo County, specifically, indicate that 74 percent of stores sell chewing tobacco as compared to 56 percent statewide, 54.5 percent of stores have tobacco products near candy at the checkout, 77.1 percent of stores sell sugary drinks at the checkout and 59.1 percent of stores that sell alcohol have exterior alcohol advertising.

“As I understand it, the marketing and products are visually accessible,” said Beth Gabor, Yolo County manager of public affairs.

The study has not indicated greater illegal consumption of tobacco and alcohol by minors in the area, but an increased usage once legal, probably correlated to the psychological effects of advertising in socially neutral locations.

“The easy access allows minors to fuel their curiosity to get their hands on these different products,” said Bar Lazar, a fourth-year human development and psychology double major. “Through advertisements, movies, these different industries trick children into thinking that smoking is ‘cool.’”

According to Counter Tobacco, the first comprehensive resource for local, state and federal organizations working to counteract this in-store advertisement by the tobacco companies, the tobacco industry spends the vast majority of its annual marketing and promotional dollars in the retail environment. Point of sale marketing builds brand recognition and positive brand imagery, encourages tobacco use and undermines attempts to quit.

Many employees of these commercial businesses realize the influx of younger children experimenting with legal, yet generally adult-oriented substances.

“I think it makes them feel grown up,” said Liana Egan, a Starbucks barista. “Younger kids come in and order caffeinated drinks, and I usually make sure they are aware of the caffeine content. These kids probably shouldn’t be having so much caffeine.”

Adolescents and college-age youth are targeted by these advertisements because of the generally acknowledged eagerness to experiment and steady progression into the world of self-moderated choice.

According to the CDC, smoking and smokeless tobacco use are initiated and established primarily during adolescence. Almost 90 percent of current smokers start smoking by age 18, and 99 percent started by age 26.

However, there could be positive aspects of beginning to smoke and continuing to do so.

“There is a high proportion of people with mental illness like depression, anxiety who smoke cigarettes as a way to cope,” said Renee Babcock, a fourth-year anthropology major. “E-cigarettes could provide a benefit to these individuals, as they now have a healthier outlet to ease stress caused by their disease.”

This would be one medically-related explanation that does not come solely from outside pressure or recreational desires.

“The average age of a first time [smoker] is 14 to 15 years old. College-age students are another population that the tobacco industry admits to promoting their products because they are adults,” Jensen said. “The newest tobacco products including e-cigarettes, flavored cigarillos, snus and hookah bars are all updated versions of old strategies to get younger people hooked.”

The statewide survey initiated the creation of the Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community campaign, a combination of tobacco use prevention, nutrition and alcohol prevention to educate people about how product marketing influences the consumption of unhealthy products. Overall, this program hopes to increase the communal health of Californians.

“We hope the results of the study will encourage store owners to choose different ways to market unhealthy products and promote the healthier ones,” Jensen said.

SHANNON SMITH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


  1. […] Yolo County tobacco, alcohol availability statistics highThe Aggie, on Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:01:55 -0700A statewide survey, including regional and county level data, reveals the density of stores selling, advertising and making available tobacco and alcohol products in proximity to minors. According to this study, Yolo County has more stores selling … […]


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