Report: Tobacco Sales Focus on Youth, Low-Income Neighborhoods

Dr. Ron Chapman

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director and state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman has released the state’s first “State Health Officer’s Report on Tobacco Use and Promotion” providing new data related to cigarette consumption declines, and the millions of dollars and lives saved. The report also includes new data on illegal sales to minors, the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers, advertising in minority and low-income neighborhoods and the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores. “The illegal sale of tobacco to minors is a serious issue and we are committed to working with retailers and inform the public in order to stop these practices,” said Chapman. “The tobacco industry’s advertising tactics towards a younger audience is disturbing and shameful. It is startling that the tobacco industry spends nearly $1 million every hour to market their products nationwide,” said Chapman. In addition to illegal sales to minors, the state report draws attention to the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers, advertising tactics, and the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores. Since the inception of the Tobacco Control Program, the annual number of cigarette packs sold in California dropped by more than 1.5 billion per year, from 2.5 billion packs in 1998 to 972,000 packs in 2011. Illegal tobacco sales to minors rose to 8.7 percent from 5.6 percent in 2011, which was the state’s lowest rate since the survey began in 1995; Prevalence of smoking was higher at schools in neighborhoods with five or more stores that sell tobacco than at schools in neighborhoods without any stores that sell tobacco. In 2011, young adults 18-24 had the highest smoking prevalence among any age group in California; The popularity, promotion and availability of smokeless tobacco have greatly increased – examples include snus (a smokeless, spitless, moist-snuff product), cigarillos (small flavored cigars that are often sold individually), as well as dissolvable and flavored “orbs” and “sticks” that are currently being test-marketed in other states. “In 2012, smoking and the use of other tobacco products continues to be a major public health concern in California, with approximately 3.6 million smokers in the state,” added Chapman.
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