Thursday, April 26, 2012

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Lambasts Plan to Sell Tobacco Products at Family Dollar

In an action alert posted on its web site yesterday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is urging the public to join the organization in lambasting Family Dollar for its decision to start selling tobacco products.

According to the alert: "The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Break Free Alliance, which works to reduce tobacco use among low-income Americans, have written to Family Dollar urging that the company immediately reverse this decision to protect its customers' health and stay true to its name as a business that values families. Other organizations calling on Family Dollar to reverse its decision include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Legacy, the National Latino Tobacco Control Network and the Inter-tribal Council of Michigan. "Given the devastating toll of tobacco use on America's children and families, we believe your decision is an enormous step in the wrong direction," the health groups wrote in a letter to Family Dollar Chairman and CEO Howard Levine. "Selling tobacco to your customers will make it easier for them to become addicted or sustain an existing addiction and suffer the dire economic and health consequences of tobacco use. The fact that your customer base is comprised of low-income families makes your decision even more troubling. Low-income people smoke more, suffer more, spend more and die more from tobacco use .... Sales of tobacco products at Family Dollar stores will only worsen these terrible burdens and health disparities."

The Rest of the Story

What I don't understand is that if sales of tobacco products at stores whose customers may be comprised of low-income families worsens the terrible burden of tobacco-related disease and increases health disparities, then why is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids not also calling for the following other stores to also discontinue the sale of cigarettes:

1st Stop at Phillips 66 gas stations
Acme Express gas stations/convenience stores
ARCO gas stations
Albertsons Express gas stations/convenience stores
AmeriStop Food Mart
A-Plus at Sunoco gas stations
A-Z Mart
Bill's Superette
Circle K
Convenient Food Marts
Corner Store at Valero and Diamond Shamrock gas stations
Crunch Time

Cumberland Farms
Dari Mart
Dion's Quik Marts 

 Express Mart
Express Lane
ExtraMile at Chevron Gas Stations
Farm Fresh Express gas stations/convenience stores
Fas Mart
Flying J
Fastrac Markets
Food Mart at Shell and Texaco gas stations
Friendly Neighbor Convenience Store
Get n Go
Go-to-c Mart
Golden Gallon
Han-dee Hugo's
Jewel Express gas stations/convenience stores
Kangaroo Express
Kwik Shop
Loaf 'N Jug
Marisol's Convenience Store
On the Run at Exxon & Mobil stations
Quick Chek
Quik Stop
Road Ranger
Road Runner
Royal Farms
Shore Stop
Smith's Express
Stripes Convenience Stores
Store 24
Speedway SuperAmerica
TownPump Food Stores
Wawa Food Markets

And this is just the beginning.

Why is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids not also sending a letter to each of the stores listed above saying: "Selling tobacco to your customers will make it easier for them to become addicted or sustain an existing addiction and suffer the dire economic and health consequences of tobacco use."

I don't understand how if Family Dollar sells cigarettes, it will make it easier for their customers to become addicted or sustain existing addiction and suffer the dire economic and health consequences of tobacco use, but if Uni-Mart sells cigarettes, it does contribute towards its customers suffering the dire consequences of tobacco use.

I also don't see how the decision about whether or not to sell cigarettes at Family Dollar will affect the public's health. Does the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids really believe that smokers who are addicted to cigarettes will quit smoking only if Family Dollar does not sell cigarettes? And does the Campaign believe that teenagers who are interested in smoking will decide not to start smoking if they are unable to purchase cigarettes at the local Family Dollar store?

What this action does, however, is frame the sale of cigarettes as being perfectly acceptable and no threat to the public's health as long as it is not done at particular types of stores, especially those with "Family" in their names. In other words, the message that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is sending is not that the sale of cigarettes contributes towards human disease and suffering, but instead, that stores with the word "Family" in their name shouldn't sell cigarettes, but if you don't have "Family" in your name, it's perfectly fine to sell cigarettes. This frames the problem of tobacco sales in exactly the wrong way. It is not, apparently, the tobacco that is the problem. It's the fact that it is being sold by the wrong store.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids seems to have an obsession with interventions that look good politically and rouse up constituent donations, but which don't actually do anything to put a dent in smoking rates.

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