s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

In Sonoma County, storefront ads rose for cigarettes, junk food


Storefront advertising of unhealthy products such as cigarettes, candy and other junk food has increased in Sonoma County, while ads for healthy food have decreased in the past three years, according to a new public health survey.

The survey, which was presented by the County Department of Health Services at a press event in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning, assessed the availability and marketing of both healthy and unhealthy products in 142 local stores. The first time the survey was conducted was in 2013.

The number of stores with storefront advertising of healthy products fell from 15.1 in 2013 to 11.3 percent in 2016. The number of stores with storefront ads for unhealthy products rose from 69.8 percent to 73.9 percent, the survey found.

Meanwhile, the availability of e-cigarettes rose more than 10 percentage points to almost 72 percent and the number of stores within 1,000 feet of a school that sold flavored, non-cigarette tobacco products leaped from 75 to almost 91 percent.

Advertising and the availability of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods greatly influence people’s choices and inevitably lead to multiple chronic illnesses, said Dr. Tara Scott, a family physician who spoke at the press event.

“Almost everything that I see in the clinic and the hospital is food-related disease,” said Scott, who works at Vista Family Health Center and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital. “If it’s not directly caused by people’s diets, it’s significantly impacted by their diets,” she said.

Scott explained after the press event that 90 percent of the illnesses she encounters, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and lung disease are a result of poor diet.

The local survey is part of a campaign called the Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community campaign, a statewide effort at curbing tobacco and alcohol use and promoting nutrition, spearheaded by county health and human services departments.

Of the stores surveyed:

82 percent sell flavored tobacco products, but only 42 percent sold fresh fruits or vegetables.

74 percent of stores sold a popular brand of “little cigars” individually for under a dollar, less than the cost of a candy bar.

45 percent of stores sold non- or low-fat milk, but more than 70 percent sold alcohol.

Across the state, survey information was gathered from more than 7,100 stores in all 58 counties. These included pharmacies, delis, supermarkets, convenience and liquor stores as well as stores where only tobacco is sold.

“The tobacco industry has put billions of dollars into promoting their product and they target community convenience stores because that’s where people are going and that’s how they reach kids,” said Karen Milman, Sonoma County’s public health officer.

“Ads are convincing kids to vape, smoke and chew tobacco, and 23,500 kids in California become new smokers every day,” she said.

But there was some good news in the 2016 survey, Milman pointed out. The number of stores that sold little cigars dropped from 83.1 percent to 73.9 percent; those that sold single little cigars fell from 58.7 percent to 27.5 percent and stores that located sugary drinks at checkout counters dropped from 68.6 percent to 40.1 percent.

In many cases, however, the county’s survey results were worse than the state’s average. For example, only 41.3 percent of stores across the state put sugary drinks at the checkout counters, compared to 68.6 percent in Sonoma County.

For the first time, this year’s survey also included information about condom sales and the ease of purchase. The survey found that 78 percent of surveyed stores sell condoms, but only 66 percent sell them on unlocked shelves.

Health officials from Napa and Mendocino counties also attended the press event.

Karen Relucio, Napa County’s public health officer, pointed out that the availability of alcohol at Napa County stores, 89 percent, was substantially greater than that of the state, 70 percent.

“Napa is known as wWine Ccountry but so is our neighbor,” Relucio said. “Yet Napa County has 19 percent more stores than Sonoma County selling alcohol.”

In Mendocino County, where 17 percent of adults smoke (compared to an average of 12.7 percent for the state), the number of stores that sell e-cigarettes rose from 44.4 percent to 62.7 percent.

The surveys were conducted with the help of local students, who canvassed stores during the summer of 2016. The experience showed Elsie Allen senior Valeria Mendez how tobacco and alcohol companies market products with an eye toward grooming young consumers.

“It made me kind of open my eyes to see how accessible and how visible all these colorful products are to children, and how kind of intriguing they are to them,” she said. “They are the same colors and similar to candy wrappers.”

Milman said the results of the survey, which are countywide, do not reflect the work that’s been done in the past three years to encourage store owners to reduce the amount of unhealthy advertising and increase the availability and visibility of healthy food choices, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

These efforts have been focused in low-income areas such as Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood, where there are fewer healthy food options compared to more affluent parts of the county.

Milman said there have been improvements in places like Roseland. In the past two years, 14 out of 17 stores targeted have seen improvements in quantity and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another 12 out of 17 have improved their marketing and promotion of fresh produce and water.

Scott, the Sutter Health doctor, applauded efforts to lessen the availability of unhealthy products.

“I sometimes joke that if people didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, the hospital rooms that I work in would be empty,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.