Hi everybody! I am William Brody, an intern at CounterTobacco.org this summer. Tobacco in all of its forms affects many people in my age group, and I wanted to research it to find out more about it. I created a map that details tobacco retailers in the Research Triangle area in North Carolina (Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill), in relation to places that teens, like my friends and I, commonly visit – ranging from coffee shops to movie theaters to libraries to malls, and last but not least, high schools. I followed the guidelines presented in the Tobacco Retailer Nation, one of CounterTobacco.org’s Youth Engagement Activities, which gives clear instructions for anyone to be able to do this activity.
The results that I found were quite disturbing. Based on my map, I found that tobacco retailers are located near places where teens hang out. For example, every high school in the area has a tobacco retailer less than 2 miles from the school, and many high schools have a tobacco retailer less than half a mile from the school.
Unlike states such as Utah and Indiana, as well as many cities and counties across the country, North Carolina has not adopted a policy to create a buffer zone around schools limiting tobacco retailers, so tobacco retailers have free reign to set up near schools. For example, Jordan High School in Durham has 6 tobacco retailers within 0.5 miles of the school. In Raleigh, Millbrook High School has 4 tobacco retailers within 0.5 miles of the school. Once my friends and I leave school, we typically hang out at coffee shops or movie theaters. Almost all coffee shops and movie theaters in the area are 0.5 miles from tobacco retailers, with most being located in the same complex or on the same street as other tobacco retailers. Almost all libraries have a tobacco retailer within a mile, and every single mall either has a tobacco retailer in the mall complex, or in a directly adjacent complex. Essentially, teenagers are exposed to tobacco sales and advertising almost everywhere they go, which could lead to a lifetime of smoking and an increased chance of acquiring cancer.
Two of the tobacco retailers near Jordan High School in Durham, NC
Finally, one of the main things I found that was very shocking, was that areas that have a larger minority population tend to have more tobacco retailers than areas with a majority white population. According to data from city-data.com, a site that contains demographic information based on geographic area, and based on the points of my map, it appears that the tobacco retailers are most prevalent in areas with large minority populations. For example, a large cluster of tobacco retailers (8) are located east of downtown Durham, particularly at the intersection of Holloway Street and North Miami Boulevard. Another area populated with tobacco retailers is the 2 mile stretch of US 1 (Capital Blvd) in Raleigh, from I-440 to the US1-US401 split. This section contains 19 tobacco retailers, meaning that there is a tobacco retailer every 555 feet! In both of these areas, minorities (African-American and Hispanic) are the majority population, comprising 56.9% of the population in this part of Raleigh, and 96.8% of the population in this part of Durham. In contrast, areas with a majority white population contain far less tobacco retailers. For instance, Southern Village, an area of Chapel Hill with a white majority, contains 0 tobacco retailers. Similarly, in Raleigh, the areas just inside I-440, northwest of downtown Raleigh, have a prominent white majority and only have 2 tobacco retailers. This trend is repeated throughout the Research Triangle, as areas with more minorities have a much higher percentage of tobacco retailers than areas with a white majority. Furthermore, research has shown that exposure to more tobacco and to more frequent tobacco advertisements is associated with higher rates of youth smoking, and ultimately can lead to deaths from diseases generated from tobacco use, such as lung cancer. According to the annual report, Cancer Facts & Figures 2014, from the American Cancer Society, tobacco is accountable for 1 out of every 5 deaths, a total of 480,000 deaths a year. Tobacco is also the cause for 30% of all cancer deaths, and it causes 87% of male lung cancer deaths, as well as 70% of female cancer deaths. In addition, data from 1999-2013 that was collected by the CDC found that minorities, in particular African-American males have the highest incidence and death rates, of all races and genders. Due to the fact that the more exposure a person has to tobacco advertisements, the more likely they are to smoke, it makes sense (sadly) that minorities have the highest incidence rates, as there are more tobacco retailers (and tobacco ads) in areas with a higher minority population.
Getting involved in a Counter Tobacco youth engagement activity, such as Tobacco Retailer Nation, really gave me a sense of how pervasive tobacco retailers are in my area, and I think it would have the same effect for many other teenagers. I did this activity as a solo project; however, if I had a student organization or youth group to help, I could map out and analyze data to compare with different places in the country. I could also draft a proposal to give my city council, or my US Representative to make them aware of this important issue. Additionally, I never would have guessed that there would be so many tobacco retailers near schools or places that I hang out. I never realized how many tobacco ads that myself and my peers are exposed to, and now I understand how influential those advertisements can be.
Altogether, this activity and the creation of the map helped me to clearly visualize the density of tobacco retailers in the town I lived in for all my life, and how the ubiquity of retailers continues to normalize tobacco use among my peer group.
Click HERE to view map
- Brody, William. “Tobacco Retailers (Yellow) vs Places Where High Schoolers Hang out.” Tobacco Retailers (Yellow) vs Places Where High Schoolers Hang out. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
- “Cancer Facts & Figures 2014.” Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, 2014. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
- “Chapel Hill, North Carolina.” (NC) Profile: Population, Maps, Real Estate, Averages, Homes, Statistics, Relocation, Travel, Jobs, Hospitals, Schools, Crime, Moving, Houses, News, Sex Offenders. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
- “Durham, North Carolina.” (NC) Profile: Population, Maps, Real Estate, Averages, Homes, Statistics, Relocation, Travel, Jobs, Hospitals, Schools, Crime, Moving, Houses, News, Sex Offenders. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
- “Lung Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 05 July 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/statistics/race.htm
- “Raleigh, North Carolina.” (NC) Profile: Population, Maps, Real Estate, Averages, Homes, Statistics, Relocation, Travel, Jobs, Hospitals, Schools, Crime, Moving, Houses, News, Sex Offenders. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.