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City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Matthai Chakko, (510) 981-7008

AS CHILD-FRIENDLY FLAVORS OF ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO RISE, TALK TO KIDS ABOUT THEIR EFFECTS
Open discussions with children can help them make healthy choices

Berkeley, California (Tuesday, March 28, 2017) - New research shows that the availability of non-cigarette tobacco products frequently made with kid-appealing flavors such as grape, chocolate, gummy candies and even breakfast cereal have increased by 80% statewide since 2013. 

The findings emphasize the importance of work to discourage tobacco use during adolescence, a key age when lifetime habits can become ingrained.

For parents and others who care for children, the findings are also a reminder to talk to children about the ways that products marketed to kids may be dangerous to their health. Conversations between caregivers and children play an essential role in leading kids to make healthy choices. Get tips for these conversations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  as well as the California Department of Public Health.

Similar research in the past laid the groundwork to curtail the sale of tobacco products within 600 feet of K-12 schools in Berkeley. The City's "tobacco retail buffer zone" - which went into effect on January 1, 2017 - prohibits the sale of flavored, menthol and electronic tobacco products within the zone. It also prohibits the issuance of new tobacco licenses in those areas. Existing tobacco retailers in those zones operate under tighter restrictions, including prohibitions against selling flavored or electronic tobacco products.

These measures seek to protect the health of the community by decreasing the likelihood that youth will consume tobacco products marketed to them.

The Berkeley-specific findings are part of new research released this month on the availability and marketing of tobacco products, alcohol, condoms and healthy and unhealthy food options in stores that sell tobacco throughout California. It builds on similar research from 2013.

Information was collected in the summer of 2016 from more than 7,100 stores in all 58 California counties including pharmacies, supermarkets, delis, convenience and liquor stores as well as tobacco-only stores. Non-cigarette tobacco products include cigars, cigarillos, snus, chew, and e-juice - all of which can also have candy or menthol flavoring. 

"Stores play a critical role on our community's health, and this survey shows offerings are out of balance, tipping heavily toward unhealthy options," said Dr. Robert Benjamin, City of Berkeley's Interim Public Health Officer. "Our goal is to help re-calibrate the balance toward health." 

In Berkeley, the survey found:

  • 84% of stores selling cigarettes sell "little cigars" or cigarillos, but only 33% of stores sold fresh fruits or vegetables.  What's more, 84% of stores sold a popular brand of "little cigars" individually for under a dollar, less than the cost of a candy bar.
  • 34% of stores sold non- or low-fat milk, but nearly 51% sell alcohol.
  • 77% of surveyed stores sell condoms, but only 17% sell them on unlocked shelves.
  • E-cigarettes saw a significant increase in Berkeley in stores from the last time this survey was conducted, up more than 15% since 2013. 

"The expanded availability of e-cigarettes and the spike in use by teens and young adults in the last three years are of particular concern," said Benjamin.  

Another goal was to examine the accessibility and marketing of healthy and unhealthy products to youth.  

"Our community's youth are inundated with unhealthy messages and choices," said Benjamin.  "We need to change what information and options our kids are exposed to and work to surround them with healthy choices and messaging instead."  

In Berkeley, the survey had these findings about tobacco marketing:

  • Only 10% of stores advertised healthy products on their storefronts, but 77% of storefronts advertised unhealthy products.  73% of stores near schools have storefront advertising for unhealthy products.
  • More than 60% of stores place tobacco products or ads in kid-friendly locations, such as tobacco ads at "kid-level" (three feet or below) or tobacco products near candy or toys.
  • More than 58% of stores placed alcohol ads at "kid-level" or near kid-friendly items such as candy or toys.
  • 80% of stores sell flavored non-cigarette tobacco products, which often have kid-appealing flavors, such as grape, watermelon, chocolate, gummy candies and even breakfast cereals. 

"A key goal of our programs and policies is to make it easier for all people to make healthy choices," said Paul Buddenhagen, Director of the City of Berkeley's Health, Housing and Community Services Department, which works with a number of community partners and health advocates. "In the process, we also address health inequities that impact our whole community." 

Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community is a statewide campaign formed by tobacco prevention, nutrition, alcohol abuse prevention and STD prevention partners collaborating to improve the health of Californians by informing them about the impact of unhealthy product availability and marketing in the retail environment. 

For state and county-specific data and more information on Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, please visit www.healthystoreshealthycommunity.com.  

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