Twenty youth, ages 12 to 18, evaluated over 150 tobacco retailers for six weeks in Chester and Delaware Counties this past May and June. The youth visited gas stations, convenience stores, small grocery markets, and supermarkets all over the county participating in the community awareness project known as Operation Storefront. The project focused on the successful marketing strategies the tobacco industry uses in order to “recruit” new smokers, 90% of which start before the age of 18. Operation Storefront educates youth on the tobacco industry’s marketing and promotion techniques that were created and used to gain new smokers, maintain current smokers (ensuring brand loyalty) and tempting those who quit tobacco to start using again.
Through Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems, two trained prevention specialists transported youth to various tobacco retailers throughout the county. The youth were trained to approach store clerks and managers and educate them on why it is important to recognize the harmful effects tobacco advertising can have on the community. Explaining the location of ads on windows, doors, ceilings, counters, banners, and clock, also known as point-of-purchase (POP), is critically important. Ads are placed where the very young can fully view them – children in strollers for example.
With $1.5 million advertising dollars an hour being spent by tobacco companies, the evidence is clear – tobacco advertising works as intended. It reaches their target age group – youth – seen by the tobacco industry as “replacement” smokers. Holcomb provided each retailer with “We Card” window stickers to reinforce that all tobacco purchasers will be asked for identification prior to sale.
This project was coordinated by Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems Prevention/Education Department, supported by the Health Promotion Council and funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
For more information, or to implement any of these programs in Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Lancaster, Schuylkill, or Bucks Counties,
Please contact Kate Genthert by email at Kaitlyn.Genthert@holcombbhs.org or by phone at 484-444-0412
or Danielle Dickerson by email at Danielle.Dickerson@holcombbhs.org or by phone at 610-363-1488