The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) has been working to fulfill its mission of a 100 percent tobacco-free Louisiana by sponsoring community advocacy grants, including research on the tobacco industry, fighting for worker’s health rights and assisting Louisiana colleges and universities in their push for tobacco-free campuses. At a town hall meeting May 9 at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans, groups working with TFL presented their research on the tobacco industry and their efforts to promote healthy living.
Among the presenters were local youth, who conducted Point of Sales Surveys (POSS) to research the marketing techniques of the tobacco industry. The inspiration for this research came from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which showed that the tobacco usage rates among Louisiana teens are higher than the national average, with 38.3 percent of high school and 15.6 percent of middle school students in the state using tobacco.
The students opened the meeting with a humorous, yet informative skit that explained the chemicals found in cigarettes.
“Come on Lloyd, do you know what’s in a cigarette? Naphthalene, found in mothballs,” said Eric Broussard, a student at Grace King High School. “Do you know what mothballs are? Neither do I!” he added, jokingly.
Carmin Frisard, another Grace King student, said the student researchers went into stores to see how candy and cigarettes were displayed “close to each other and how they set it up to catch the youth’s eye.”
The group said 42 percent of stores had advertisements for little cigars and cigarillos, which are more popular among youth because they are often flavored.
Students at Warren Easton Charter High School also found that stores in Orleans Parish are more likely to advertise inside of the store because it is easier to convince consumers to make last-minute purchasing decisions.
The group said most advertisements promoting the tobacco industry are not directed toward adults who already smoke but toward children who might be tempted to begin smoking.
“The rationale for this is that the tobacco industry is targeting our youth at the point-of-sale location environment by placing advertisements at their eye level,” said Geoff Brien, regional manager for TFL.“They’ve got products that look like candy and smell like candy. Their reasoning is they are continually trying to replace their customers that either quit or die with our youth.”
The youth also hosted a “Kick Butts Day” in Lakeside Shopping Center, which drew about 400 people.
“You can’t have a problem and not a solution,” said Frisard. “And the ‘Kick Butts Day’ was our solution. We had a lot of youth come up and realize what was in a cigarette and said they would never smoke.”
Among the colleges involved in the Louisiana Tobacco-Free College Initiative are Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard University and Xavier University of Louisiana. Each college was represented at the meeting and explained their efforts to create a 100 percent tobacco-free campus.
Southern is completely tobacco-free, and “at this point, we are really trying to encourage enforcement on campus, so that is what we’re going to be focusing on for the next semester,” said Theata Bakes of Southern.
Dillard is working to get its new tobacco-free policy passed, with hopes that the campus will be tobacco-free by November. The new president, Dr. Walter Kimbrough, supports the initiative.
“Bit by bit we are trying to create a healthy learning, living and working environment,” said Dr. Wodajo Welldaregay, assistant professor of public health at Dillard University.
Xavier has started a task force, including the different college departments and students on campus in their effort to create a tobacco-free environment.
“We had a ‘Kick Butts Day,’” said Raymond Brown, director of environmental health and safety at Xavier. “We had games that students participated in, and our mascot was passing out flyers to get students to come out. We launched testimonials and asked students to write something about why they didn’t smoke or what they thought smoking would do to them and placed them around campus.”
TFL is optimistic about the future for a tobacco-free Louisiana.
“It’s a very political fight with a lot of money against us, but I know if we work together, we can combat this problem with the tobacco industry,” Brien said.
For more information on the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living and ways to get involved, visit tobacco freeliving.org.