Illegal tobacco marketing targets youth

Anti-smoking group says local leaders should adopt regulations

The author, a Chico State grad student, is adviser to Bidwell Junior High’s K.L.E.A.N. program.

Based on a study of 26 of the approximately 100 convenience stores in Chico, K.L.E.A.N. (Kids Leading Everyone Against Nicotine) has major concerns about the local tobacco retail environment, particularly excessive advertising, youth-targeted advertising and lack of licensing regulations

There are regulations for stores that limit the amount of tobacco advertisements and easy access to tobacco products, but we fear these laws are ineffective. For example, the outside windows of half of the stores we surveyed had advertisements in excess of the allowable 33 percent, as prescribed under the Lee Law. Further, there was access to cigarillos on the counter in 23 percent of the stores, a violation of the Tobacco Control Act.

Advertising, easy accessibility and youth-targeted marketing put children at a high risk for addiction. Ninety-six percent of the stores surveyed sold fruit- or sweet-flavored products and 31 percent had advertisements within 3 feet of candy or toys.

E-cigarettes have tripled in adolescent use. They were found in 85 percent of the stores in flavors such as tropical fusion, chronic hypnotic and chocolate. Research has shown the younger an individual begins smoking, the more likely he or she will be addicted for life. Approximately 90 percent of smokers pick up the habit before age 18, and two-thirds remain addicted.

In order to protect Butte County youth, there is a need for increased regulations on tobacco retailers. Currently, tobacco outlets pay only a one-time fee of $100 to the state Board of Equalization. Compare this with the thousands of dollars every year that businesses pay to sell alcohol.

In a decoy project in 2012, 17 percent of stores in Chico sold tobacco products to minors. A local tobacco license requirement would bring in revenue to enforce existing tobacco control laws such as not selling to minors, and not having self-service tobacco. This would be an added measure to prevent youth accessibility and, ideally, prevent life-long addiction.

Please let your local representatives know you support a local tobacco retail license requirement. Go to to join Tobacco Prevention Coalition programs.