One of the best parts about my neighborhood is that it’s super walkable. I can walk from home to my university; from my university to meet up with friends at a café; from the café to the grocery store to grab food to cook for dinner. Walking makes me feel connected to my community in a way that driving or taking public transit doesn’t. It’s also a great way to get in my steps so I can keep living a healthy, active life. But there is a downside.
When I walk – to my university, to the café, to the grocery store – I am bombarded by tobacco ads, marketing and promotions from vape shops, smoke shops and convenience stores. And this doesn’t just impact me. It affects everyone in my community. In fact, studies show that this predatory marketing is directly linked to more young people using tobacco and vape products.
That’s why I recently participated in the American Heart Association’s Tobacco Endgame photo safari “Do You See What I See.” This photo safari helped me document just what I see when I walk from place to place. And if I see it, chances are everyone, from the babies being pushed in strollers to the high school and middle schoolers who stop into convenience stores for a quick snack, sees it too.
WATCH: Irveena hits the streets to show us just how prevalent tobacco and vape marketing are in her community
Making matters worse is that many of these vape and tobacco ads use bright colors, attractive models and enticing flavors to attract youth. Unfortunately, it’s working. More than 80% of high schoolers who used tobacco products in the past 30 days used a flavored tobacco product. Tobacco companies strategically target us with flavors such as breakfast cereals, fruit, candy, mint and more. The use of these products does not benefit the health of individuals or communities; the only outcomes are addiction, disease and early death.
One way to prevent and limit tobacco use among youth is to create stronger tobacco retail licensing. But we can’t do that unless lawmakers really see what we see. So join me in creating your own photo safari to document where you see tobacco and vape products and ads in your community, on your way to school or near your college campus. Get all the details you need to get involved here!
By Irveena Grant, media advocacy intern, American Heart Association