From September 2021 to August 2022, Counter Tools supported the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to address two of their identified priority areas: preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youth and young adults, and addressing tobacco-related health inequities. This included point-of-sale training for KDHE’s Chronic Disease and Risk Reduction community grantees as well as youth Resist Chapters across the state. Following these training sessions, KDHE asked Counter Tools to lead a point-of-sale focused summer project for interested Resist Chapters.
During the summer of 2022, youth across the state of Kansas participated in a project to learn more about the tobacco retail environment in their communities. The project was led by Counter Tools in coordination with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition. Using a survey form adapted from the Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings (STARS) surveillance tool, high school students from five Resist chapters gathered data about the tobacco retailers in their counties, including the types of tobacco products sold and how they are marketed. Resist is a statewide, youth-led movement that strives to de-normalize tobacco use among youth and unites communities to stand up against the tobacco industry.
Students completed a total of 77 store assessments at tobacco retailers throughout Douglas, Johnson, Jackson, and Wyandotte counties as well as in the town of Holcomb in Finney County. Resist chapters focused on assessing retailers that were located near their schools or were visited regularly by them and their peers. Most of these retailers were convenience stores, and close to 70% of the stores featured exterior tobacco advertisements. Youth also observed many stores selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and oral nicotine products. In reflecting on their experience, students were struck by the large displays for e-cigarettes with bright colors available in flavors ranging from fruit and candy to herbs and spices. Sometimes these displays were only a few feet off the ground – right at eye level for kids – or located near other products that youth might be looking for, like candy or toys. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and in addition to targeted marketing, flavors are a key driver of youth e-cigarette use. Almost 80% of the stores students assessed sold cigarillos or little cigars for less than $1 – inexpensive enough that price-sensitive groups like youth may find these products more appealing.
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