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Officials Look To Limit Tobacco Use Among Youth

MAYVILLE — With 107 tobacco retailers in Chautauqua County, concerns of limiting big tobacco marketing is still a concern locally.

Combined with high vaping use among youth, health officials worry about the impact of traditional and contemporary nicotine use. But the goal remains to disrupt the current tobacco industry strategy where stores continue to serve as messengers for tobacco companies, local health officials said.

In Chautauqua County, comprised of 68% rural communities, tobacco marketing tailors itself to portray “independence” and “ruggedness,” said Ilana Knopf, Public Health and Policy Center director, during a recent Chautauqua County Board of Health meeting. She referred to retailers as “recruitment centers” for the tobacco industry due to “very effective” marketing.

Board of health members were provided an updated look by Knopf at the impact of the “clever marketing” by big tobacco companies. Knopf, who joined via telecommute, was assisted by two officials from Tobacco-Free Chautauqua Cattaraugus Alleghany, Ken Dahlgren and Jon Chaffee.

Much of the information provided was based on a study titled, “Retail Store Observations: A Comparison of Point-of-Sale Between Rural and Urban Areas.”

“I want to commend the county on past actions,” Knopf said. “I know you, the board of health, have really taken an active role in identifying tobacco use as the problem that is and attempting to tackle it.”

In 2016, the county Legislature approved legislation to raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, which has since become a statewide law.

The study, which was the primary focus of the presentation, examined discrepancies between rural and urban communities, but overall it studied how big tobacco companies market toward the youth.

Of all retailers, 77% are located within 1 mile of a school in the county. Of the 77% of retailers, those located in urban communities was significantly higher (93%) than the proportion of those within a mile of a school in rural communities (58%).

Knopf warned that a higher density of visible tobacco and nicotine advertisement near schools increases exposure to youth.

“The goal that the community has in order to address the problem is to disrupt this industry’s strategy,” Knopf said, adding that limiting marketing will make the products less attractive and accessible to youth.

While overall use of traditional nicotine use, such as cigarettes, has declined, many have turned to vaping devices that has been the focus of the county and New York state. According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 survey, more than 2 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

However, Christine Schuyler, Health and Human Service director, voiced concern about what will happen to nicotine-addicted teenagers if the sale of vaping products is restricted.

“What’s going to happen to these kids who are now terribly addicted to nicotine?” Schuyler asked.

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