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Survey on sales of tobacco & unhealthy products revealed

Results of a new, statewide survey on nearly 7,400 businesses offering retail sales of tobacco were announced today by the California Department of Public Health in conjunction with city health department officials from Berkeley, Long Beach and Pasadena.

The results were released during a March 5, 2014 press conference in Los Angeles to help kick-off the Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community public awareness campaign. Full statewide and local survey results are on the website, www.HealthyStoresHealthyCommunity.com.

The on-site survey of 7,393 retail establishments is the first of its kind in California to generate a snapshot of data on the in-store marketing and availability of tobacco, alcohol and food products. Businesses included in the survey were first identified by the state as ones that sell tobacco. The survey then looked at the product marketing and the availability of healthy and unhealthy options offered for sale such as alcohol, junk foods, sugary beverages, sodas, fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.

The survey was done last summer in all 58 counties (both incorporated and unincorporated areas) in California. All county health departments and the three municipal health departments participated. Only stores that sold tobacco were included, from supermarkets, small grocery and convenience-style shops to liquor stores, discount chains, drug stores and big box retail. Health food stores or grocery stores that do not sell tobacco were excluded.

In Pasadena, 97 stores that sell tobacco were surveyed. The stores were not identified by name. Of those 97 stores, almost 58 percent displayed some form of exterior advertising or signs that promoted unhealthy products while only about 13.5 percent featured similar advertising for healthy products. Averages both statewide and throughout Los Angeles County indicated about 71 percent of the stores surveyed showed unhealthy product advertising and just 12 percent had healthy product advertising.

The survey showed that many of the stores sell tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools. In Los Angeles County, nearly 40 percent of the businesses were within the 1,000-foot radius while statewide the percentage was about 27.5 percent and 32 percent in Pasadena. In Los Angeles County, less than half of those businesses surveyed sold any fresh fruits and vegetables. Statewide, the number was about 42 percent and about 38 percent for the Pasadena-based businesses surveyed.

The survey also looked at sales of “alcopops,” a sugar-sweetened, fruity malt-liquor product. Statewide, about 82 percent of the stores carried such products, while the average was about the same in Los Angeles County and 60 percent for Pasadena businesses. In many instances, alcopop products were marketed in close proximity to regular soda beverages, the survey found.

“We’ve made a lot of strides in recent years but this survey shows that tobacco and other companies offering unhealthy products continue to find new ways and new products to entice our youth, many times in stores just a few blocks from schools,” said Dr. Eric Walsh, the City’s Public Health Officer and Director of the Pasadena Health Department. “We need healthier stores for a healthy community. Consumers have a right to select and have healthier food options available. As health officials, we want to work with retailers, partners and parents to protect our kids to achieve this health goal.”

The Pasadena Public Health Department has worked to promote and protect the health of the Pasadena community for more than 120 years. For information about the City of Pasadena, visit www.cityofpasadena.net, follow us on Twitter @PasadenaGov, www.twitter.com/PasadenaGov, or call the Citizen Service Center, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday throughFriday, at (626) 744-7311.

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