More than three out of four stores near schools in San Mateo County sell tobacco products flavored like candy, mint and liquor that may be more attractive to youth, according to an analysis released Wednesday of how tobacco, alcohol and food is marketed and sold by retailers.
The survey Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community was a collaboration of the county’s Health System and other health advocates in the state who looked at more than 7,000 stores ranging from convenience to big box in each of the 58 counties between July and October 2013.
What they found is that a quarter of the stores that sell alcohol sell miniature versions called nips, nearly 20 percent of stores selling alcohol offer alcoholic slushy pouches and only a little more than a third of stores selling food have fresh fruit and vegetables, according to the survey.
Of those, less than half are rated “good quality.”
“We have made tremendous strides in tobacco prevention in the last 20 years but we still have work to do. As the survey shows, our children are still being targeted with unhealthy foods and flavored tobacco and alcohol products near their schools,” Brian Zamora, director of the Health System’s Family Services Division, said in a prepared statement.
Zamora said health officials are also seeing lower income communities targeted with cheaper tobacco products. Cigarettes were priced at $7.75 in some zip codes but can also be found as cheap as $4.77 in other parts of the county, according to survey results.
The survey looked at 450 stores in San Mateo County that sell tobacco products and found 78.2 percent of the ones selling candy, mint and liquor-flavored tobacco goods are locating within 1,000 feet of a school. A little more than 50 percent keep the tobacco products near candy at the checkout. Sugary drink at the checkout were also found at 55.6 percent of stores near schools.
Of the 450 stores, 63.8 percent sell alcohol and of those 75.9 percent sell alcopops which are sweetened alcoholic beverages resembling energy drinks or soda.
Compared to the state averages, the health picture in San Mateo County is better in many categories. The survey noted that while 13.8 percent of adult Californians smoked in 2011-12, 7.7 percent of San Mateo County adults did. The cost of smoking is calculated at $6.5 billion in the state of which $126,512,724 is attributed to San Mateo County.
The survey also found that 59.8 percent of adult Californians are overweight or obese but 50.3 percent are in San Mateo County. Slightly more than a third of county adults ate three or more fruit and vegetables the day before being surveyed versus 27.2 percent of Californians.
The exact same number — 22 percent — of 11th-graders in 2009-2011 binge drank in California and San Mateo County and slightly more had drank in the previous 30 days, 36 percent locally compared to 35 percent in the state.
Specific data for the state and each region and county can be found at www.HealthyStoresHealthyCommunity.com.
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