Miles College Latest Alabama School to Snuff Predatory Tobacco Marketing

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Last month, with the help of the Health Action Partnership, Miles College became to latest Alabama school to take a stand against marketing tactics targeted towards its students. The school believes that its new policy will improve student and staff health.

The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership works with campuses across the Birmingham area to reduce student exposure to predatory tobacco marketing.

According to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s latest report, 'Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,' nearly all smokers pick up the habit before the age of 26. That means universities are an urgent battleground for tobacco prevention.

Last month, in an effort to improve student and staff health, Miles College became to latest Alabama school to forbid tobacco companies from marketing cigarettes and other products on campus. The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, as part of its ongoing "SmokeFree Alabama" campaign, is working with local colleges and universities to enact policies that curb marketing efforts targeting students.

According to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s latest report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” nearly all smokers pick up the habit before the age of 26. That means universities are an urgent battleground for tobacco prevention.

“Tobacco companies claim that they no longer intentionally market to youth, but they continue to employ themes and messages that resonate with younger audiences, whether it be the need to fit in, to feel attractive, or to manage stress,” said Suzanne Sizemore, project facilitator with United Way of Central Alabama, a Health Action Partner. “Marketing tobacco products to college-age young adults clearly remains a priority of the tobacco industry.”

Since President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the marketing of tobacco products, tobacco companies have had to find new marketing tactics. They began offering coupons and “buy one get one free” offers on campuses, a loophole in the regulation.

The predatory marketing tactics — those that target a specific race, ethnicity or group of people — are being used by tobacco companies to lower prices for college-aged students, enticing them to become regular smokers. Health advocates believe these tactics bring harmful health consequences for young people across the nation.

While many colleges have taken action toward smoke-free facilities, but few have made action against predatory smoking a priority. Miles College, which is located in Fairfield, Ala., adopted an anti-predatory marketing policy this semester to protect the health of their students. The policy includes restrictions against discounted prices, coupons, rebates, gift cards or free samples of nicotine or tobacco products on campus.

“Many colleges and universities do not consciously allow tobacco advertising on their campuses,” Sizemore went on to explain. “Taking an official stand against predatory marketing practices ensures a healthier learning environment for students, staff, facility and visitors.”

The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership is a coalition of more than 100 nonprofit organizations working alongside the Jefferson County Department of Health to advance smoke-free policies, reduce tobacco use, encourage physical activity, reduce obesity, expand food access, and improve the overall health of Jefferson County residents.

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Michael Hansen

Suzanne Sizemore
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