Convenience Store Staples Under Siege

Survey decries availability, marketing of tobacco, alcohol, snacks in California c-stores

Published in CSP Daily News

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. -- The Santa Clara County Public Health Department, along with other health departments and advocates across the state of California, have released the results of a survey that gathered new data on the availability and marketing of tobacco, alcohol, "junk food" and sugary beverages in stores that sell tobacco--the first time all three categories of products have been analyzed together, they said.

The data release also marked the launch of Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, a statewide campaign formed by tobacco prevention, nutrition and alcohol prevention partners working "to improve the health of Californians by informing them about the impacts of unhealthy product marketing in the retail environment."

The survey collected information from more than 7,300 diverse retail stores--including convenience, supermarket, liquor, tobacco, small market, discount, drug and big-box stores--in all of California's 58 counties, with the goal of "shedding light on what products are available and promoted in [its] communities." Nearly 700 public health representatives, community volunteers and youth participated in the survey, which the agencies conducted from July through October 2013.

"Santa Clara County has been a leader in implementing strong policies aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles for youth. We have passed ordinances in our unincorporated county pockets that restrict tobacco sales near schools and requiring restaurants offering kids' meals with toys to meet minimum nutrition standards," said supervisor Ken Yeager. "However, today's findings prove that local governments and businesses need to do more to overcome the barriers to health created by the tobacco, alcohol and food industries."

"Unhealthy" product advertising outside of stores far outweigh healthy product advertising, the health department said, with 69% of stores surveyed displaying ads for either tobacco, alcohol, junk food or sugary beverages advertising, while only 16% display healthy advertising, such as for milk or fruits and vegetables. In Santa Clara County, one in five stores that sell tobacco are within 1,000 feet of schools and are frequented by our kids.

The survey findings also show that electronic cigarettes are widely available in Santa Clara County, "which is alarming to health officials and community partners," the survey said. Almost half of stores selling tobacco also sell e-cigarettes. Statewide, the number of stores selling e-cigarettes quadrupled in the last two years, from 11.5% in 2011 to 45.7% in 2013.

The survey includes state, regional and county level data and offers new insights into the density of stores selling tobacco and their proximity to schools, types of tobacco and alcohol products being sold, advertising and placement of such products in stores, the availability of e-cigarettes and the availability and promotion of unhealthy and healthy food options, including low-fat or non-fat milk and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Additional survey findings include in Santa Clara County:

  • 87% of the surveyed stores sell flavored tobacco products near schools.
  • 65.3% of the stores selling tobacco have sugary drinks at the checkout and are near schools.
  • 72.8% of the stores sell the most popular brand of cigarillos for less than $1.
  • Alcohol ads are placed at three feet and below at 42.7% of the stores.

Regional and county-by-county data includes:

  • Percent of stores that have unhealthy exterior advertising.
  • Percent of stores that have healthy exterior advertising.
  • Percent of stores selling tobacco products, alcohol or sugary drinks near candy at the checkout.
  • Percent of stores that sell e-cigarettes.
  • Percent of stores that sell candy, mint and liquor-flavored noncigarette tobacco products and are near schools.
  • Percent of stores that sell candy, mint or liquor-flavored noncigarette tobacco products vs. milk.
  • Percent of stores that sell sugary drinks at the checkout and are near schools.
  • Percent of stores that accept CalFresh that sell a good selection of good quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Of stores that sell alcohol, percent that sell alcopops.
  • Of stores that sell alcohol, percent with alcohol ads near candy/toys or below three feet.

Click here for regional data and data from all counties.

[Editor's Note: CSP Daily News does not necessarily endorse the opinions, assertions, conclusions or recommendations of any report it covers as news.]