Vanessa Marvin, the Associate Director for The Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing, has provided countless trainings to local coalitions and regional groups around the state on topics such as the Midwest Academy Strategy Chart, recruitment, working with elected officials, and coalition facilitation. In this post, Marvin writes about how data is an important tool in advocating for tobacco control.
To prevent kids from getting access to cigarettes, tobacco control advocates in California are working to pass local tobacco retailer licensing laws in their communities. More than 80 cities and counties in California have adopted these ordinances so that enforcement action can be taken at the local level against retailers who sell tobacco products to minors.
A license might sound like a common sense approach, but there is opposition to this idea, and there are a lot of arguments against licensing that advocates across California have heard over and over again. The American Lung Association in California’s Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing provides advocates with data to combat these arguments:
- Argument 1: The public might support this type of policy in liberal San Francisco, but they would never support it in more conservative rural California.
Response: To test this, we conducted a telephone survey of rural and small town voters in California. We found overwhelming support for tobacco retailer licensing. More than three of four rural and small town voters in California support requiring store owners in their area to get a license to sell cigarettes. Now advocates in rural California can reassure their nervous elected officials that their constituents do in fact support licensing.
- Argument 2: We don’t know whether licensing is actually effective.
Response: To respond we’ve gathered data on the before and after rates of sales to minors from local communities where licensing has passed. Overwhelmingly the sales rate data shows that sales to minors have dropped dramatically after an ordinance passes and advocates can now say that licensing does reduce sales to youth.
- Argument 3: We should wait until the economy improves before imposing this license and fee.
Response: Obviously protecting minors from the harmful effects of tobacco should not have to wait until the economy improves. Tobacco retailers are making enough money from cigarettes that a licensing fee of approximately $200 would not be a burden for them. In fact, data from the National Association for Convenience & Petroleum Retailing shows that in 2009, cigarettes accounted for 35.9% of all in-store sales and generated average sales of $576,354 per convenience store. We have condensed this data into a factsheet so that advocates can now point out that what retailers may be really worried about is lost sales if their license is revoked for selling to minors — not about affording the small annual license fee.
While the arguments against licensing can be tough to handle, armed with great new data, advocates in California are prepared to fight for tobacco retailer licensing.
Cigarettes Generate Big Revenue for Convenience Stores (The Center for Tobacco and Organizing, The American Lung Association in California)
Tobacco Retailer Licensing: Rural California Poll (The Center for Tobacco and Organizing, The American Lung Association in California)
Tobacco Retailer Licensing is Effective (The Center for Tobacco and Organizing, The American Lung Association in California)
The Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing (American Lung Association in California)