A tobacco control group representative says a new state law which, in part, stops the use of tobacco product coupons and multi-pack discounts in stores, will encourage people to rethink their habits.
The law, which went into effect Wednesday, is also intended to stop the online sale and shipment of e-cigarette products to residences.
“We’re very excited about this. This is great news,” said Julie Calvert, Tobacco-Free GOW community engagement manager.
Calvert said that in 2016, the adult smoking rates in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties were 24.4 percent, 28.6 percent and 25 percent, respectively, while the state average was 14.6 percent.
“One of our focuses is on retail policies. We are all consumer-driven. If the prices are lower, we are going to want to purchase it more. If you have a coupon, aren’t you more apt to purchase it more?”
The tobacco companies, Calvert said, try to offset the taxes that have been placed on tobacco products by offering things such as the tobacco coupons.
“They’re trying to offset that and keep their consumers,” she said. “It’s not really the stores hat are doing it. The stores are just following through with it.”
Calvert called the law going into effect “a big win for our tobacco control program, definitely.”
“It’s something we’ve been working on for a very long time,” she said.
The youth smoking rate is down between 4 and 5 percent in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, Calvert said.
“We’ve seen all-time lows, which is awesome. It was around 20 percent in 2000, the youth rate. It probably ranged from 20-24 percent,” she said. “We did student surveys. They were done in the Orleans schools, the Genesee schools and Wyoming County schools. They surveyed grades 7-12.”
The surveys covered tobacco use, but also other drugs and alcohol as well.
“We’ll have to keep measuring the kids’ use as GCASA and Partners for Prevention do. They do their surveys every two years,” Calvert said. “We’re very data-driven also. We watch adult and youth rates.”
Tobacco-Free GOW Youth Coordinator Brittany Bozzer said the big benefit of the law that took effect Wednesday is the part which stops the online sale and shipment of e-cigarette products to residences. In New York state, Bozzer noted, e-cigarette products such as e-liquids, cannot be shipped. According to eLiquid.com, e-liquids are the fluids that fuel the electronic cigarette and provides the nicotine solution and the flavoring to an e-cigarette.
“It is a big win for us because we know the security on e-cigarette websites is not the finest. When it (the legal age to buy tobacco products) was still 18, you just had to click a box that said you were over 18 and it would let you right into the website,” Bozzer said. “They’re (kids) not able to get things shipped other places. Now that the kids are home, they’re not able to get it shipped home before mom and dad get home.”
Effective Nov. 13, 2019, the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products and electronic cigarettes became 21. When the minimum age was 18, younger kids would hear from older kids how easy it was to get e-cigarette products shipped, Bozzer said. The older kids might have been 18-year-old kids at their school or older siblings or neighbors, she said.
“That’s one of the biggest things we focused on when we were meeting with our legislators. For the most parts, the legislators were very receptive because they have younger kids, they have teen agers. They’ve been pretty receptive to us and understand. We take our kids to Albany once a year to educate the legislators about certain things,” she said.
The youth coordinator said as far the youth go, the ban on shipping these products is more of a win than the prohibiting of tobacco product coupons. The youth can’t use the coupons in stores because they’re underage, she said.
Bozzer said she holds meetings every week with the youth she works with. Those youth are excited to see the progress the law that went into effect Wednesday has made.
“They know that all the education they’ve done and all the research (they were) doing with this is starting to make a difference,” she said. “For my couple individuals who have been in the program for six years, it’s been chugging along little by little to try and make some headway. We told them, ‘You’ve got to keep plugging along and telling them (legislators) what you know and educate them.’ ”
Bozzer said people who signed up to receive email messages from JUUL would have gotten a message that e-cigarette products can no longer be shipped, but people can still buy the tobacco-flavored and menthol-flavored products in convenience stores.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) said JUUL is something that looks like a USB drive and is promoted as an alternative to combustible cigarettes and existing e-cigarettes or vaping devices. Most e-cigarettes work in a similar manner, AAFP said. They use cartridges filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals.
Tobacco-Free’s partners are GCASA, Partners for Prevention and the county health departments and mental health departments.
“GCASA does the surveys with the Genesee and Orleans schools. Partners for Prevention does the surveys in Wyoming County schools. Partners for Prevention is a program of the Wyoming County Mental Health Department,” Calvert said.
“The schools administer the surveys. GCASA and Partners for Prevention share their findings with us. That’s how we get it,” she said.
Calvert said not everyone has a vehicle.
“If you are in town and you do not have transportation, you have to walk to the convenience store to buy your cigarettes, that may cause you to reconsider your habit,” she said.
Calvert also noted the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) will send patches to those who call to help them quit smoking.
Tobacco-Free GOW is part of the Advancing Tobacco Free Communities Grant, she said.
“Our mission is to reduce tobacco use in our communities. One of the ways is policies. policies that target retail environment. Part of our grant is to work with our communities to implement policies, educating policies,” she said.
Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, said Advancing Tobacco Free Communities (ATFC) is launching a statewide mini-media campaign through social media avenues to educate youth and adults about the new law.
“Big tobacco companies spend 90 percent of advertising on discounting, which is very concerning. Price promotions are associated with youth progression from experimentation with cigarettes to regular smoking. Other populations that have been identified as price sensitive are women and African Americans,” he said.