ASPiRE, Tobacco-Free Kids team up to spread the word about retail density

ASPiRE, Tobacco-Free Kids team up to spread the word about retail density

ASPiRE recently joined the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to conduct a nationwide media campaign to publicize the center’s research on tobacco retail density in 30 U.S. cities. The two-week campaign reached over 3 million broadcast viewers, radio listeners and on-line readers in more than two dozen of the nation’s largest media markets. It also resulted in a 438% increase in traffic to the website.

The effort focused attention on the proximity of tobacco retailers to schools as districts around the country prepared to begin classes in the fall and featured research led by ASPiRE’s Lisa Henriksen and her team at the Stanford University School of Medicine. ASPiRE’s Dissemination & Implementation team at Washington University, led by Douglas Luke, worked with CTFK to create website resources and other materials for the media; Henriksen, CTFK President Matthew Myers, and several members of ASPiRE’s Community Advisory Board participated in TV and radio interviews.

Henriksen said the media tour was an important milestone in the center’s aim to produce research with impact. “The collaboration with CTFK was exciting and they amplified the research results for 30 U.S. cities in ways that can inform tobacco control policies and improve community health,” she said.

Laura Brossart, who manages ASPiRE’s D&I team, said the campaign should give a boost to local advocates and legislators in their efforts to reduce smoking and vaping. Each CAB city now has its own resource page on the ASPiRE website with fact sheets, a city-specific press release, and shareable social media graphics. The resources feature data for each city about tobacco retailers near schools and in low-income neighborhoods.

“Our new, evidence-based resources are now in the hands of tobacco control advocates and policy makers who can use them in their efforts to limit access to tobacco products in their communities,” Brossart said.

Myers said the research was impressive.

“This study powerfully illustrates how the tobacco industry continues to target kids and vulnerable communities with its deadly and addictive products,” he said. “The tobacco industry is hooking a new generation of kids by aggressively marketing its products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, in locations where kids are continually exposed and have easy access. Policymakers must take action to protect our kids and communities, starting with a ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products.”

Dave Lemmon, Director of Media Relations for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the media tour exceeded expectations.

“This joint effort was a tremendous success for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and we look forward to collaborating with the ASPiRE team again in the future,” he said. “In fact, there never would have been a media tour in the first place without these important findings about how ubiquitous tobacco retailers truly are in so many different communities.”

“We got more really good TV and radio interviews in more critical target markets than we initially expected,” he added. “That we were able to break through in such major media markets as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Dallas, among others, is a testament to the great research and dissemination work that ASPiRE was responsible for.”

The research illustrated that across the ASPiRE cities, tobacco retailers are:

  • Located near schools: On average, 63% of public schools are within 1,000 feet (about 2 city blocks) of a tobacco retailer.
  • Concentrated in lower-income areas: On average, the number of tobacco retailers per square mile is nearly 5 times more in the lowest-income neighborhoods than in the highest-income neighborhoods.
  • Easy to access: On average, 70% of city residents live within ½ mile (~10 minute walk) of a tobacco retailer. Maps illustrate “tobacco swamps,” which are areas with a glut of tobacco retailers.
  • Clustered together: On average, 54% of tobacco retailers are within 500 feet (~2 minute walk) of another tobacco retailer.
  • Ubiquitous: There are 31 times more tobacco retailers than McDonald’s restaurants and 16 times more retailers than Starbucks. In the 30 ASPiRE cities, there are 40,856 tobacco retailers.

“Living in a neighborhood that is saturated with tobacco retailers makes kids more likely to try tobacco products, and it makes it more difficult for those who are already using tobacco products to quit,” Henriksen told an interviewer from Phoenix. She added that even though the city’s schools themselves may be closed due to COVID, the proximity still mattered. “With 50% of city residents living within a 10-minute walk of a tobcco retailer, whether or not kids are at school this fall, they have easy access to these products,” she said.