News and Events

Visible and Cheap, in the Retail Environment, is Where Tobacco Enters Our Community
September 20, 2018

It’s a shocking fact that the tobacco industry spends the vast majority of their marketing money in the retail environment spending over $1 million an hour to promote their products, in which, most of their marketing efforts are aimed directly to our kids.

Essentially, the tobacco industry is buying shelf space to keep tobacco visible and offering price discounts to keep tobacco cheap. Big Tobacco is aware of what they are really “buying” is the opportunity initiate youth as tobacco users and adults who can’t quit! 

In efforts to combat these marketing tactics, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Columbia County has been elbow deep in the retail realm of the tobacco industry for the past few years. During the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, adult TFP members, along with the help of Columbia County SWAT Youth, conducted closed to 100 point of sale (POS) store audits, nearly every licensed tobacco retailer in Columbia County in an effort to gain information that’ll be use in an effort to counter Big Tobacco’s marketing schemes!

The retail point of sale is comprised of three main categories: (a) point-of-sale advertisements, (b) price discounts (c) coupons. This was a very comprehensive and lengthy process as the store audit assessment form was 11 pages long and contained 27 questions. However, this first phase of retail assessment was an eye-opening experience for all involved and brought much to our attention locally.

During the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year, SWAT Youth and TFP members were faced with a new task, assess all local Tobacco Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) retailers. AVC is a legal agreement between a tobacco retailer and one or more states. Under these agreements, tobacco retailers can voluntarily enact tobacco advertising and/or sales restrictions.

The metrics under which these retailer locations were monitored included – tobacco product placement, pricing promotions, availability of tobacco ‘lookalike’ products, and tobacco advertisements that are limited to brand name, logo, other trademarks, and price.

All stores surveyed had at least one infraction, most with numerous, and this phase pointed out several areas of concern as well:

As you can see, the retail point of sale is a big issue here in our local community. The data obtained throughout this monitoring phase gives insight into local issues, and brings awareness into the effectiveness of voluntary agreements in the tobacco retail environment. Some of the most notable findings included areas for improvement with existing federal, local, and state tobacco regulations.

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Columbia County has created a POS task force – a team of individuals with a passion for improving the health of Columbia County residents, particularly our youth, who will help further analyze this data and determine how to create lasting change.

For more information on tobacco marketing at the retail point-of-sale or what you can do to help, please Jodie DeLoach, Facilitator of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Columbia County -