A new survey highlights areas for improvement in the availability of healthy and unhealthy products that are marketed in stores throughout California.
The Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community survey, released last month, was conducted with health jurisdictions throughout California. The campaign was formed by tobacco prevention, nutrition, alcohol abuse prevention, and STD prevention partners collaborating to improve the health of Californians by informing them about the impact of unhealthy product availability and marketing in the retail environment. The City of Long Beach participated in their efforts through a cooperative agreement with the California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program, which operates in every health jurisdiction across the State.
“We know that stores play a critical role in our community’s health,” said Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach Health Officer. “The Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community survey gives health officials insight into the current state of healthy and unhealthy advertising in retail settings, tobacco availability, and particularly unhealthy advertising that targets our children.”
The survey found that more than 50 percent of stores place tobacco products or ads in kid-friendly locations – near candy or toys or at “kid-level” (3 feet or below). Eighty-two percent of stores sell flavored, non-cigarette tobacco products, which often have kid-appealing flavors, such as grape, watermelon, chocolate, gummy candies and even breakfast cereals. Nearly 77 percent of stores near schools also sell flavored tobacco products.
However, illegal sales of tobacco to minors is decreasing in Long Beach. Only 7.9 percent of stores sold tobacco to youth in December 2016, according to the annual Tobacco Youth Purchase Survey conducted by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. This is down from 36.1 percent reported during the first year of the survey in 2005. Currently the statewide rate is 10.3 percent. These findings show considerable improvement and highlight the positive change that can be accomplished with healthy retail practices.
The California Department of Public Health’s Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community survey collected information from more than 7,100 stores that sell tobacco products in all 58 California counties. A random sample of 133 stores in Long Beach that sell tobacco products, which included pharmacies, supermarkets, delis, convenience and liquor stores, big box retailers, as well as tobacco-only stores, were surveyed during the summer of 2016. Survey findings in Long Beach included:
• 78 percent of stores sell “little cigars” or cigarillos, but 33 percent of stores sold fresh fruit or vegetables.
• 95.5 percent of stores sold a popular brand of “little cigars” individually for under a dollar.
• The number of stores selling E-cigarettes in Long Beach increased 10 percent since 2014, but the percent of stores selling E-cigarettes remains lower than Los Angeles County overall.
• 7.5 percent of stores advertised healthy products on their storefronts, but 74 percent of storefronts advertised unhealthy products.
“The findings are both instructional and concerning,” said Kelly Colopy, Director of Health and Human Services. “The number of Long Beach stores selling tobacco to our youth has declined significantly. Still, 90 percent of people who smoke start before the age of 18, and this survey found that kids are being inundated with unhealthy messages regarding smoking and other unhealthy behaviors. The survey gives us a snapshot of where we are today and where we can make improvements to lessen the disparity between healthy and unhealthy options available in many of our communities. We are committed to making Long Beach a healthier place to live for all our residents.”
In the past, the City of Long Beach has used surveys, such as the California Department of Public Health’s Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (CX3), to launch the collaborative Long Beach Healthy Market Partnership, which provides technical assistance to small stores in select low-income neighborhoods, to help them increase the provision of fresh fruits and vegetables, and to address unhealthy advertising.
The LBDHHS is actively working to improve healthy eating and active living, focusing on communities with high rates of obesity. One of these communities is the HEAL Zone in North Long Beach, which engages residents to identify what improvements need to be made in their neighborhoods, and has resulted in the LBDHHS bringing free fitness classes and nutritional workshops to North Long Beach, as well as collaborative efforts to build safe places to walk, bike, and play.
“Gaining a realistic picture of the availability of healthy and unhealthy options in our communities offers residents, retailers, City of Long Beach staff, community leaders, and local neighborhoods, a focal point as they work to build a healthier community,” said Tiffany Cantrell-Warren, Manager Community Health Bureau of the LBDHS.
For State, County, and Long Beach-specific data and more information on Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, please visit www.healthystoreshealthycommunity.com