Each year, there are an estimated 440,000 premature tobacco-related deaths in the United States. Despite the known dangers of smoking, an estimated 20,000 New York City public high school students are still smoking cigarettes (2011 YRBS).
We know that exposure to tobacco advertising may affect youth smoking behavior. This past Spring, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), working with the NYC Coalition, piloted a public health mentorship program with college and high school students in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx to determine Big Tobacco’s presence in these communities.
Research has shown that 79% of New York City tobacco retailers are within a few blocks of a school. Students in the mentorship program conducted a community mapping survey to assess how this startling fact pertains to their own schools. Their findings are detailed in a NYPIRG report released last week titled Overexposed.
Overexposed highlights some alarming findings. Forty-five stores in the three neighborhoods contained at least one tobacco advertisement. A total of 345 tobacco ads were observed within just the small radius around the participating schools, and 136 of those ads were found on the store exteriors.
“These survey results serve as a reminder of the abundance of tobacco ads, product displays and other marketing that youth are exposed to in their everyday lives,” said Megan Ahearn, NYPIRG Program Coordinator. “New York City students are overexposed to deceptive tobacco marketing.”
We know tobacco advertisements and product displays are saturating our communities. It is no accident that so many are so close to schools and no wonder that nearly 90% of adult smokers start before the age of eighteen. The Coalition will not sit idly by while Big Tobacco attracts new replacement smokers, costing both lives and millions of dollars in health care costs in New York.
Please help us to share the report with your organizations and partner networks. The full media release for “Overexposed” is available here.