The Lyndon BTA (Bulldogs Take Action), a youth group at Lyndon Town School, committed to preventing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, are participating in the Small Change/Big Impact statewide retailer initiative. They continue to educate local retailers about the impact on youth caused from alcohol and tobacco advertising.
During recent visits to Circle K and Nick's Gas n' Go in Lyndonville, students not only educated the retailers but learned a few things as well. Store owners Margaret Allard and Pauline Harris welcomed the students and supported their message. Students praised these two stores for having minimal alcohol ads, but encouraged them to reduce the excessive amount of tobacco ads and displays, which were much more prevalent.
"The tobacco industry spends approximately $27.4 million on marketing in Vermont each year. Youth are three times as sensitive as adults to tobacco advertising," said seventh-grade student Chandler Rainey, quoting statistics from a Vermont Department of Health fact sheet.
The Healthy Retailer Community Survey conducted with 212 adults in Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury revealed that over 77 percent of those polled would like to see store owners voluntarily decrease the number of tobacco ads and displays in their stores. However, Harris, of Nick's Gas n' Go, told students the tobacco companies dictate where stores must place tobacco ads and how many they must have. There didn't seem to be any possibility of reducing youth exposure to tobacco ads as long as a store was under contract with tobacco companies. Students will explore exactly what that means. They will ask store owners if there is a benefit to being under contract and whether or not those benefits outweigh the risks to youth.
While students realize that there may be some limitations to what they can accomplish, they were encouraged by the friendliness of store owners and managers alike. During a visit to Circle K, associate Judy Smith taught the students about the process of scanning licenses to take precautions against the underage use of alcohol and tobacco.
"I'm impressed with how well stores enforce the law and not selling tobacco or alcohol to minors. I'd like to see as much voluntary effort put forth to reduce exposure to advertising that is aimed at recruiting youth as the next smokers. Every year 850 Vermonters lose their life to tobacco use. Tobacco advertising is an effective strategy to replace those customers lost," said Rose Sheehan, the school's SAP and NVRH Tobacco Program(s) coordinator.