Survey Finds Tobacco Advertisements are Easily Seen by Children
Several markets, convenience stores and gas stations in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties display tobacco advertisements that can readily be seen by children, according to a new study conducted by a regional anti-tobacco education group. The Los Angeles Times reports the results of the study "confirm" the belief of anti-tobacco activists, who say that tobacco companies "have shifted their advertising focus" to local markets and gas stations in the wake of the 1998 ban on billboard ads. For the survey, the Tri-County Regional Team, a Santa Barbara-based group funded by the California Department of Health Services, sent 54 teenagers to more than 250 stores in the three counties. The survey found that "children see an average of 20" advertisements for tobacco products per store. Some of the other findings of the study include:
- In Oxnard and Camarillo, nearly 74% of stores near homes, schools and parks put tobacco ads in windows; in Moorpark, the figure was about 40% (Ragland, Los Angeles Times, 4/24).
- Fourteen out of 43 Camarillo stores placed ads featuring the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel near candy, as did eight of 52 stores in Oxnard and four out of 21 stores in Moorpark.
- Tobacco advertising placed less than three feet off the floor -- "or eye level with small children" -- was found in 13% of businesses surveyed in Oxnard, 16% in Camarillo and 33% in Moorpark.
The 1998 national tobacco settlement prohibits the industry from taking "any action, directly or indirectly" to target youths (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 4/24). Jan Smith, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said that the industry was not targeting children, but that the terms of the settlement made stores "one of the few" outlets for cigarette advertising. "We do not want youth to smoke -- period. If you look at all the studies, the primary influence on children who make the mistake of smoking is peer or family influence. It's not the advertising" (Los Angeles Times, 4/24).
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