Covering Louisiana

Mar 18, 2013 2:20 PM by Press Release

Louisiana Youth STAND UP! to Direct Marketing from Tobacco Industry

New Orleans, La. - March 18, 2013 - Louisiana's teen tobacco usage rates remain higher than the national average, with approximately 38.3 percent of high school and 15.6 percent of middle school students in Louisiana use tobacco, according to the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).

In light of these startling statistics, youth throughout the state are choosing to Stand UP! against the tobacco industry and its adolescent-targeted direct marketing efforts. Twelve groups across the state were awarded grants from the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) to engage and get youth involved with tobacco control and prevention efforts through the Defy the Lies initiative. As part of the grant, Defy teams participated in the point-of-purchase (also known as point-of-sale) project, which focused on tobacco products and advertising in stores where youth are likely to visit on a regular basis, like gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, and corner stores in their own communities.

"Reaching out to Louisiana youth, especially during the transition from middle and high school, is crucial," said Tonia Moore, Associate Director for TFL. "We are continuously working to get local communities involved in TFL's Defy the Lies initiative, a youth movement that takes down the influence of the tobacco industry, promotes tobacco-free lifestyles, and brings awareness to media and elected officials about what tobacco products are being consumed by and sold to our youth. The time is now to get a better handle on the large number of youth using tobacco products and stand up to the aggressive marketing tactics being used today."

Throughout spring 2013, numerous Stand UP! themed Town Hall style meetings will take place where local youth will present the results of their store assessments and begin discussing what their community can do to address the issue. These meetings will be announced in each region as they happen and media and community members are invited and encouraged to attend. The first two meetings are already scheduled:

* Lake Charles Region - March 19, 5:30 - 7 PM at the Ronnie Johns State Farm Insurance Agency (3701 Maplewood Drive, #2, Sulphur, LA)
* Thibodaux-Houma Region - March 21, 4 - 5 PM at the Terrebonne Parish Library - North Branch (4130 West Park Ave., Gray, LA)

Each Defy team consisted of an adult coordinator and eight youth members, ranging in age from 11 to 18. Each team was trained to recognize tobacco products, tobacco advertisements, and identify tobacco industry tactics designed to get kids' attention. TFL staff randomly selected 84 stores in each grantee's region to conduct research. Four youth from each grantee were selected as "data collectors," and visited approximately 16 stores a month from October 2012 to March 2013. Some even went to stores twice to make sure their counts were consistent and reliable. Overall, Defy youth visited more than 1,008 stores throughout the state.

The remaining four youth members were designated as "communicators", and focused on engaging community members, as well as raising awareness on the issue of point-of-sale. They focused their efforts on a "letters to the editor" campaign and meeting with local elected officials to spread the word about the dangers of tobacco and how the industry specifically advertises to adolescents.

"In the 2011 NYTS, 59 percent of Louisiana students reported having smoked one or more cigarettes in their lives," said Megan Tulikangas, Evaluation Manager for TFL. "This factor alone makes tobacco use a significant public health issue. The Defy point-of-purchase project has been a great way to engage local youth who are interested in changing their communities for the better."

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