Supersizing of Tobacco Advertising Targeting Youth: A Pilot Study of Convenience Stores in Virginia

By Ajibade, Phoebe Butler | VAHPERD Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Supersizing of Tobacco Advertising Targeting Youth: A Pilot Study of Convenience Stores in Virginia


Ajibade, Phoebe Butler, VAHPERD Journal


INTRODUCTION

Tobacco use remains the leading behavioral cause of death, responsible for nearly 440,000 deaths per year (CDC, 2002). Large numbers of Americans continue to smoke despite the well-documented health risks that are associated with chronic tobacco use. Smoking is associated directly with asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, coronary heart disease and emphysema (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2001). It is a high cost activity, studies indicated that between 1997-2001, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $167 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States ($75 billion in direct medical costs, and $92 billion in lost productivity); this translates to $3,702 per adult smoker (CDC, 2006).

In part, the 1998 master settlement agreement (MSA) places limits on the ways in which tobacco products can be advertised, promoted and sold in the United States. The MSA bans tobacco advertising via television, radio and billboards. The prohibition of billboard advertising triggered a massive growth of tobacco advertising in retail stores (Wakefield, 2002). Much of this advertising was of the form known as "point-of-purchasing" advertisement (POP) for tobacco on store windows and around the counters.

POP tobacco promotions and advertising have been found to be more common in retail stores located in the Southern region of the United States, as compared to other regions (Ruel et al, 2004). This may be in part because the tobacco industry has historically served as a major source of economic development in the South (Landon, 1933). The most powerful tobacco producing companies in the United States are located in Virginia and North Carolina (Landon, 1933 & Maxwell, 2007). Further, of the five cigarette companies accounted for more than 90% of all sales in the United States in 2005, five are headquartered in the South (Maxwell, 2007). These five are: the Altria Group Inc. Philip Morris USA (49.2%), Reynolds American Inc. (27.8%), Lorillard (9.7%), Commonwealth Brands (3.7%), and Liggett (2.4%) (Maxwell, 2007).

Convenience stores account for the largest number of retail tobacco sales (Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing, 2007) in the U.S.; this is concerning since the majority of youth go to convenience stores at least once a week (Point of Purchase advertising Institute, 1992). Recent studies have found a relationship between teen smoking and POP marketing (Slater, 2007). The visitations coincide with a subtle increase in the numbers of young smokers.

This study seeks to add to the literature regarding tobacco-marketing strategies in the South and POP tobacco advertising targeted toward Southern youth. Prior studies examined POP for tobacco products in California, Boston, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. The purpose of this study was to assess the types and frequencies of tobacco advertisements and displays at convenience stores in Virginia. In particular, it assesses POP marketing at convenience stores through measures cited in prior studies (Terry-McElrath, 2002): (1) exterior ads, (2) interior ads, (3) low height ads (3 feet high or lower), (4) age limit signage, (5) special promotions, (6) self-service versus clerk assisted tobacco products, and (6) functional items (e.g. change cups, clocks).

METHODS

Sample Selection

A purposive sample of 50 convenience stores was selected for this pilot study. In order to be included in the study, the stores had to be within a 100 mile radius of tobacco manufacturing companies and be "chain-based" convenience stores (e.g. Hess, Exxon, Shell). In Virginia, 50 stores were selected in Richmond, Newport News, Hampton, and York County. Convenience stores were excluded if they were privately owned (e.g. not part of a chain). This study examined patterns among chain stores. Previous studies have shown that privately owned stores have more tobacco ads placed outside and inside of the stores. …

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