Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Kids study tobacco advertising

Holmes students checked stores

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — They are only a few months short of the age at which most teens who smoke take their first drag.

        But these 16 students of Holmes Junior High School in Covington aren't about to light up.

        They conducted a study of tobacco advertising in retail stores in Covington and announced their results Tuesday at a press conference at the high school.

        They urged adults to support their efforts to reduce cigarette advertising. They also said schools are sending mixed messages by prohibiting students from smoking but allowing faculty members to smoke outside the building.

Teachers smoke
        Eighth-grader Dan Girdler said his school posts “no smoking” rules but doesn't enforce them.

        “You can walk in the bathrooms and smell smoke,” said Dan. “You see teachers who smoke. No one tells them to stop.”

        The study, called Operation Storefront, was started in California by nonprofit health groups. Teen-agers across the country conduct surveys of tobacco ads in stores.

        A group of 16 volunteers from Holmes Junior High spent four months counting tobacco ads and “We Card. It's the Law” signs posted inside and outside of 41 stores, including 20 small grocery stores, eight chain convenience stores, one tobacco outlet, six liquor stores and six gas stations.

        They found that some Covington retail outlets that sell tobacco products are violating state law by not displaying signs that warn that only adults can buy cigarettes from their stores. The law requires at least one sign be posted inside the store.

        The teens found that 35 percent, or 12, did not post “We Card” signs inside the stores.

        About 80 percent, or 33, did not display those signs outside the store.

"Get rid of the ads'
        Yet those same stores were filled with ads for Marlboro, Camel, Kool and Winston cigarettes, including some on promotional gear such as clocks, garbage cans and bumper stickers.

        The study group said teens are more likely to pay attention to that kind of marketing.

        “We need to get rid of the ads because people start smoking when they're young, then they get old and can't stop,” said Mike Stowers, seventh grade. “We need to get rid of cigarettes period and all the tobacco problems. Get rid of it all.”

Industry response
        Darryl Jayson, vice president of the Tobacco Merchants Association Inc., in Princeton, N.J., said the industry is funding TV commercials and other anti-smoking campaigns aimed at youth.

        And money states receive from the tobacco settlement can also be used to discourage smoking, Mr. Jayson said, but the tobacco companies can't tell any state how to spend it.

        Holmes students received a $500 grant from the NorthKey Regional Prevention Center and worked with the Northern Kentucky Health Department to complete the survey.

        Teams of three students and one adult went to each store and got permission from the manager before looking at ads on display.

        They found:

        • Gas stations displayed the most exterior “We Card” signs (5).

        • Small markets displayed the most interior “We Card” signs (25).

        • There were an average of 11 tobacco ads inside each store.

        • Interior ads were most prevalent in the tobacco shop (with 22 ads), liquor stores (21 ads) and convenience stores (11 ads).

        • Exterior ads were most prevalent at the tobacco outlet (22 ads).

        • Kools had the most exterior ads (33) of any brand.

        • Marlboros had the most interior ads (87).

        Many of the students said they were surprised at how many tobacco ads they saw. They also said the ads were targeted to children 16 and older, the age many children start smoking.

Letters to officials
        And they called on the adults for support.

        Krystal Tarlton, eighth grade, said students plan to use their information to influence state legislation on tobacco marketing.

        “We want the community to help us write letters to our elected officials to get them to reduce sales and local advertising,” Krystal said.

        Col Owens, a Covington School Board member, said the school needs to ensure that students smoking on campus face consequences.

        Krystal and her brother Jason Tarlton said the school also should investigate what happens off campus. She said students who get into a fight across the street can be suspended, yet someone smoking in the same spot doesn't worry about reprimands.

        “Some kids who get caught smoking do get suspended,” Jason said, “yet when they come back they are still smoking.”


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