News and Events

Point of Purchase Tobacco Advertising Placement Survey
By Tracy DeCubellis, Gilchrist County Tobacco Prevention Specialist

Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth and leaders surveyed local tobacco retailers to determine the level of tobacco advertisements being marketed toward children, the kinds of tobacco advertisements near schools, and the amount of self-service tobacco, or products available within reach to children in Gilchrist County stores that sell tobacco.  The survey was completed using the StoreALERT form that reviews exterior and interior advertisements and tobacco placement.
StoreALERT is an important SWAT project because tobacco companies spend about $9.5 billion each year advertising their products at point of purchase – usually convenience stores.  Florida is the most highly advertised state with a whopping $880 million dollars being spent on store advertising and promotions yearly. 
A recent study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine that indicates point-of-purchase advertising does impact youth smoking habits.  The research states, “Results suggest point-of-sale advertising is associated with encouraging youth to try smoking, whereas cigarette promotions are associated with influencing those youth already experimenting with cigarettes to progress to regular smoking, with established smokers being most influenced by promotional offers” (Slater, Chaloupka, Wakefield, Johnston & O’Malley, 2007). 
Our goal in Gilchrist County is to use the results of the StoreALERT survey to equip our youth to choose a tobacco-free lifestyle by understanding the local marketing tools used by tobacco companies.  Overall StoreALERT grades reveal that 60% of retailers earned a D or an F which means they displayed a high level of tobacco advertising.

2011 Final Grades

This year our results indicated that tobacco ads are being placed to attract the attention of children.  Exterior and interior data showed that 70% of stores are placing tobacco ads at child eye level, and 60% of the stores also placed tobacco products at child eye level.  StoreALERT defines “hip high” on an adult as child eye level which means these products and advertisements are intended to be seen by children.

Exterior Ads at Child's Eye Level


Tobacco at Child's Eye Level

This becomes even more significant because 40% of the tobacco retailers surveyed were in line of sight of schools.  This year only 20% of stores had self-service tobacco; however 40% of retailers displayed tobacco within 12” of register which is essentially self-service as it can be touched from in front of the counter.  The tobacco near the registers was candy flavored cigars, which is usually displayed in brightly colored packages that appeal to children.

Only 10% of stores surveyed displayed the exact age of sale wording required by Florida Statute 569.14 which reads:   THE SALE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF 18 IS AGAINST FLORIDA LAW. PROOF OF AGE IS REQUIRED FOR PURCHASE.  That means 90% of stores only displayed “We Card” signs on the doors and interior of the store at the time the survey was conducted.  Age of sale signs are intended to not only enforce the law, but also send a message to youth that tobacco use by minors is unacceptable. 

We found some good news to share as well.  This year 100% of tobacco retailers were abiding by the new FDA guidelines restricting free gifts with purchase of tobacco products.  We are encouraged to see compliance with the new rules in this area.  Additionally, we noted that 80% of retailers are only advertising tobacco around the tobacco products, and not around the candy or other areas of the store.   Outdoor advertising showed improvement over last year’s results with 60% of retailers either having no outdoor tobacco ads, or a discreet level of advertising compared to 12.5% in 2010.  This year 40% of stores displayed moderate or in-your-face levels of outdoor advertising, while last year 87% of retailers fell into this category.

It is clear from these results that children and youth in Gilchrist County are being exposed to a large amount of tobacco advertising.  Research is indicating that our young people are being influenced and encouraged to try tobacco products through point-of-purchase advertising.  If we want our youth to be tobacco-free, this is an area that should be addressed.  At the time of this writing, the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners is considering a candy flavored tobacco placement ordinance that would place all candy flavored tobacco products behind the counter.  The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County and Gilchrist County SWAT support this ordinance as an important step in helping Gilchrist County youth to be tobacco-free.


Slater, S., Chaloupka, F., Wakefield, M., Johnston, L., O’Malley, P. (2007, May). “Impact of
retail cigarette marketing practices on youth uptake.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161, 440-445.  Retrieved June 3, 2011, from