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New data looks at local retailers, placement of products in stores aimed at youth

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA HEALTH SERVICES - A display of tobacco products for sale in a storefront. A recent survey of data reveals how Columbia County tobacco retailers are marketing products or displaying them in stores to appeal to younger users.Columbia Health Services and Oregon Health Authority recently conducted a study to determine how tobacco retailers are marketing products, especially to youth.

The trends for tobacco, cigarette and e-cigarette use vary, but marketing to youth remains a problem across the board.

Across the state, OHA visited nearly 2,000 tobacco retailers to collect data, a press release published by CHS explained in mid-July.

"OHA's assessment sheds light on the variety and intensity of tobacco marketing targeting youth. It also shows how the tobacco industry targets communities that already experience higher rates of tobacco use and tobacco-related chronic disease and death," the press release states.

A total of 97% of retailers in Columbia County sold flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, like "Pebbles Donuts" and "Tropical Fusion" which are aimed at youth and young adults. Across the state 93% of retailers did the same.

Tobacco products were also displayed near toys and candy in 17% of locations assessed in Columbia County, compared to 20% statewide, the press release adds. Additionally, six out of seven retailers in the county offered discounts or coupons to make products more accessible to youth or those with lower incomes.

CHS Prevention Coordinator Heather Oliver noted that e-cigarette use in Columbia County is also a concern, especially among youth.

Only about half of students surveyed in the 2018 Oregon Student Wellness Survey in Columbia County reported never having used e-cigarettes. Just over 27% of students in the survey reported using e-cigarettes, vape-pens, or e-hookah, Oliver explained by email.

"Also according to the CDC, 'Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first try cigarette smoking by age 18, and 98% first try smoking by age 26,'" Oliver said. "This is why it's so important to provide accurate information to our youth, parents, and community members about the risks of tobacco use. Teaching youth to be aware of advertising is also another key piece."

According to the most recent Oregon Healthy Teen Survey data from 2018, 9.8% of high school juniors in Columbia County reported using cigarettes, compared to the state average of 5.8%. In the same survey, 27.5% of eleventh-graders reported using e-cigarettes. Statewide that number was 20.8%

Most juniors in Columbia County reported getting tobacco or vaping products from friends who are older than 18. Only 6.6% percent of students reported getting products from the store or gas station, data from a different 2017 shows.

CHS offers educational presentations at Columbia County schools to educate teens about tobacco advertising and e-cigarettes as well.

"We take as many opportunities as we can to educate the community on e-cigarettes and tobacco use as a whole," Oliver said. "We are also available to answer questions and provide resources as needed."


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