Creating Healthier Convenience Stores in Southeastern PA

Historically, Big Tobacco has utilized corner stores and other tobacco retailers to advertise their products and initiate new smokers, especially youth. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in the first 10 years after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which aimed to limit tobacco advertising, tobacco manufacturers spent more than $110 billion to advertise and promote cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in the retail environment. That represents almost 92 percent of their total marketing expenditures. The biggest issue is how much of this point of sale advertising and product placement is geared at children. There are other tobacco products that look like and are placed next to candy, product and promotion placement at children’s eye level, and colored packaging specifically meant to appeal to young girls. Additionally, these corner stores are where young people go to buy cheap and unhealthy snacks and drinks, especially in low-SES communities where there are no other options. Together, the tobacco advertising, point of sale practices, and flooding of unhealthy foods make corner stores an important battleground in the fight against Big Tobacco and childhood obesity. Health Promotion Council is carrying out multiple initiatives in Philadelphia and surrounding counties to help Pennsylvania’s youth win these battles.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Tobacco Control Project (SEPA TCP) was recently invited to help pilot the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s (PA DOH) PA Healthy Corner Store Initiative (HCSI). The project partners HPC, Tobacco Free Northeast, PA DOH and The Food Trust to pilot Philadelphia’s healthy corner store model in Reading, Lancaster, Bethlehem, and Allentown. The hope is to eventually spread this model across the entire state, with hundreds of stores making up the PA Healthy Corner Store Network. This is a great opportunity for HPC to demonstrate our strengths, utilize our partnerships, and develop new partnerships throughout our region and the entire state of Pennsylvania. The premise of the project is that corner stores will commit to the network and become “healthy corner stores” by changing their inventory in meaningful ways. Once they make these changes, stores are given a financial reward, promotional materials, and even new healthy food refrigeration equipment. In theory, these incentives will convince other corner stores to join the healthy corner store network in the future.

In all seven of SEPA TCP’s counties (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and Schuylkill) we are also rolling out the 3rd phase of Operation Storefront, in conjunction with HCSI in Lancaster and Schuylkill Counties. Operation Storefront is a point of sale youth empowerment initiative in which youth survey advertising and product viagra mode d'action placement in tobacco retailers throughout the region and also provide merchant education about youth tobacco sale laws. This project will give us a better sense of the point of sale situation in southeastern Pennsylvania and also hopefully change the norms surrounding these practices.

These Point of Sale initiatives build on our work in Philadelphia, conducting youth sale law compliance checks and merchant education for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. We hope that these initiatives will combine to create a healthier region for youth and adults and hopefully can be expanded statewide to impact as many people as possible.

Michael Halenar, MPH, Regional Tobacco Manager


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