Iowa Students for Tobacco Education and Prevention (ISTEP) is a youth-led tobacco prevention movement with a network of local chapters across the state. ISTEP was started by high school students who were tired of tobacco hurting them and their families and now has over 1,600 registered members statewide.
Many ISTEP chapters have gotten involved with Point of Sale work by using the Counter Tobacco Youth and Community Engagement Activities. A chapter in Audubon, IA, a small, rural community in the Southwestern part of the state, recently used the Walking Tobacco Audit to uncover the problem of tobacco use and tobacco advertising in their community.
“Our rural population has adapted the Walking Tobacco Audit to fit their environment. There are not a lot of retailers in smaller communities, so this was a litter clean up and tobacco advertising awareness activity,” said ISTEP Youth Coordinator Robbyn Duchow.
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What did they do?
First, the ISTEP chapter in Audubon began assessing the environment in their local community, participating in a litter cleanup project to see how much of a problem tobacco use was in their community. Then, youth were educated on tobacco advertising and the point of sale. After the educational session, students were then set out with the task to complete the Walking Tobacco Audit. In this particular activity, they noticed some large outdoor advertising of low priced tobacco products at the Dollar General store.
The group decided they would all write letters to the Dollar General Corporation and ask them to take the sign down, citing examples of how tobacco advertising is aimed at youth and other populations.
The Dollar General Corporation responded by sending a letter back to the group, and took down the sign in Audubon! These large yellow outdoor advertisements were also taken down from Dollar General stores across the state. "It was a great achievement, and the best part was that the idea came from the youth," said Duchow.
What did the youth gain from doing the activity?
“I believe the youth gained power from this activity. I think they definitely realized that they can make a difference, and they learned that their voice was powerful,” Duchow said. She added, “Following the success of this activity, this same chapter is now working on getting a local grocery store to take down some outdoor advertising as well. These stores are creating their own banners that advertise “low price tobacco” or ”tobacco prices at state minimum” – and this is what the youth are working on removing from the storefronts in the community. These youth also have gained an education about point of sale and tobacco advertising, and in turn are educating their community. Learning about tobacco advertising and how/what groups are targeted in the population definitely make an impression on youth. This chapter in particular is taking that information a step further and saying “not in my community” while they educate others in the community on the important issue.”