New Report Attacks Tobacco Sales, Targets C-Stores

Report by anti-smoking groups condemns c-stores for point-of-sale tobacco marketing.

A new report, titled “Deadly Alliance: How Tobacco Companies and Convenience Stores Partner to Market Tobacco Products and Fight Life-Saving Policies” has been released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Counter Tobacco (a project that works to counter tobacco product sales and marketing at the point of sale) and the American Heart Association.

The report claims that tobacco companies have enlisted convenience stores as their most important partners in marketing tobacco products and fighting policies that reduce tobacco use, “thereby enticing kids to use tobacco and harming the nation’s health.”

The report calls on elected officials to adopt policies—especially higher tobacco taxes—that reduce tobacco use and counter the influence of point-of-sale marketing. It calls higher tobacco taxes a win-win-win for states—a health win that reduces smoking, especially among kids; a financial win that produces significant new revenue; and a policy win that polls show is strongly supported by voters across the country.

The report claims that as other forms of tobacco marketing have been restricted, tobacco companies now spend more than 90% of their marketing budget—nearly $10 billion a year—to saturate convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets.

Key points in the report include:

• Convenience stores and other retail outlets have become, by far, the dominant channel for marketing tobacco products in the U.S. Since the November 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies restricted some forms of tobacco marketing, tobacco companies have significantly increased both the total amount and the percentage of their marketing budgets spent at the point of sale. In the first 10 years after the settlement (1999 to 2008), tobacco manufacturers spent more than $110 billion—92% of their total marketing expenditures—to advertise and promote cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in the retail environment, according to the latest tobacco marketing reports issued by the Federal Trade Commission.

• Tobacco marketing in stores entices kids to smoke and use other tobacco products, discourages current tobacco users from quitting, targets minority communities and portrays deadly tobacco products as appealing and acceptable, according to the report. It summarizes the extensive scientific evidence on the impact of point-of-sale marketing.

• Point-of-sale marketing is very effective at reaching kids and influencing them to smoke. With tobacco ads prohibited on television, radio and billboards and less frequent in magazines, convenience stores remain one place where kids are regularly exposed to tobacco advertising and promotions. More than two-thirds of teenagers visit a convenience store at least once a week. Studies have found that cigarette marketing is more prevalent in stores where adolescents shop frequently; tobacco advertisements and product displays are often placed at kids’ eye level or near candy; and point-of-sale marketing—especially price discounting—increases youth smoking.

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